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Veronica is a teenage girl that has done something to upset the local "Camorra" mafia. Mimmo, a teenage boy who sells ices (slush) on the streets, has been given the task to watch over her until the local boss of the area, Bernado, has time to come along and take care of the problem. Mimmo is unwilling, but compelled to cooperate in his task, while Veronica is flippant and understandably not co-operative. The scene is some deserted warehouse near Naples where the two develop a bond and mutual respect for each other's undesirable position despite the circumstances, both being caught up in the wrongdoings of daily mafia life. The film progresses at a gentle pace, and both characters are likable and inevitably they come to an understanding. Despite the slow pace, for me the film works on several levels. It successfully conveys that feeling of dread, evil, ignorance and misogyny that exists in the all-pervasive Italian mafia life, that feeling of helplessness, of having to accept that this is how things are, without reason but just because it is – the total abuse of power. Great acting from the two protagonists who apparently are debutants on the silver screen, and also by the mafia thugs who remind me of the occasional unsavory types I have come across while living in this great, but severely flawed country, that is Italy.
Action scenes over-done
It's a mixed bag, but as a fan of LOTR this film was a bit of a disappointment for me. There were some well-scripted scenes and welcomed additions to the book, and some good acting, but my main gripe with this film is that the action scenes have become ridiculous and I'm surprised that Peter Jackson succumbed to this industry trend where the main characters survive impossible 1 in a million situations. Worse is the fact that many of the invented scenes were of this nature, extending the film to well over 2 hours and requiring 3 visits. Is it really possible to fall hundreds of feet and survive without a scratch? Or survive huge boulders being thrown all around you while you stand on a moving mountain? Fantasy this may be, but I'd call it ridiculous. Peter Jackson, and other movie makers, should perhaps look to The Game of Thrones for more realistic action and fight scenes. I don't mind if a film veers from the book if it is to cut short or to make connections - but this film adds scenes to bore us to tears with unnecessary, impossible and repetitive action scenes. I won't be going to see the next installment in 1 year - I'll wait until it arrives on satellite TV, such is my disappointment.
Cowboys and Angels (2000)
I've seen this film several times and it has never failed to move me or hold my interest right to the end. The film starts out with Danny, a lovely guy that has just been ditched by his future wife. In coming to terms with this he meets Jo Jo, a mysterious and attractive woman that takes over his life. Danny is so overwhelmed by her that he follows her on her favourite pastime of attending weddings all over town, uninvited and somehow unnoticed. There is a surreal feel to many of the scenes with the aid of an enigmatic soundtrack. Particularly memorable is a scene where Jo Jo goes to the aid of a bridegroom having doubts and whispers to him some magical words that lift his state of confusion. There's clearly something out of the ordinary about Jo Jo and yet Danny seems too besotted with her to probe into her background. But one day Jo Jo disappears leaving Danny in a bigger muddle than ever. After being knocked-out by some louts outside a bar he is woken by Candice, and on the story goes. The film works thanks to the natural feel to the acting and the clever handling by the director of the paranormal subject matter, i.e. angels. A wonderful idealistic romance that resolves well, but tinged throughout with sadness.
The Secret of Moonacre (2008)
This is a film suited to children so perhaps I shouldn't be writing this review, although my two children didn't seem overly impressed. The problem I have with this film is that we are served up with what has become a very much repeated storyline over recent years after LOTR. Inevitably we have a piece of jewelery that holds magic powers, that has been lost and lead to feuding families, and the little star of the film must rectify matters. The sets and costumes are top notch and are what make the film really worth watching. The acting is mediocre to say the least, in particular Tim Curry as one of the feuding family heads, although I will say that Dakota Blue Richards as the child puts in a decent performance. Very few of the characters do anything that makes you really empathize with them, and I don't recall being moved in any one moment of this long film. I give it a 5 out of 10 thanks to the sets and costumes.
Satisfactory film about Italian life and politics
I thoroughly enjoyed this film for the great performances of the two lead actors (only later did I find out they were debutants) and for how well Tornatore brought us a vivid picture of life in Sicily over a period lasting from the 20s to the 80s. We are reminded of just how strong a grip fascism had over Italy in the early parts of the 20th century, and how the average Italian had little power to offer an alternative. Sicily is depicted as a place of poverty, corruption and confusion. Life is tough and for many it's only their faith or their ideals that keep them going. The star character is a man that does not lie down easily to the fascist influence, challenging the system with little success, taking a few beatings along the way. He marries a local girl that was destined to marry into the rich and fascist way of life, bearing many children and leading as pure a life as possible given the harsh conditions. We come to understand why socialism and communism has a strong following in southern Italy. This is the story of one man's fight to raise a family with dignity, as a political activist hoping to make things better for the common people of his town, requiring heaps of courage given the dangers of speaking out against fascism in those days. Overall the film succeeds although doesn't offer anything I haven't seen before regarding Italian and especially Sicilian life. My vote 8 out of 10
Ghost Town (2008)
A very funny film
For Ricky Gervais fans, you're going to love this film. For the rest of you, leave your skepticism behind, and take off your film critic hat, and just sit down, perhaps with the rest of the family, and enjoy this delightful comedy. Who cares if Ghost comedies have been made before, and that there are some clichés in there? How else are you supposed to react on seeing ghosts? In fact I thought the plot and delivery was quite original given that it's not entirely a new genre. But what makes the film are the continuous laughs from scene to scene. Ricky Gervais is perfect for the role as a miserable anti-social dentist. I thought there was wonderful chemistry between him and Tea Leoni despite that she's clearly too sophisticated and attractive for him, but it really doesn't matter. This is a comedy, there's no need to get so uptight about these details. Greg Kinnear was perhaps the only unconvincing actor as the dead and cheating husband, but not enough as to spoil the film. There were some notable scenes, in particular as Gervais is quizzing his doctor (Kristen Wiig) about what happened during his colon exam, aided by an equally funny lawyer (Michael-Leon Wooley). And in the end there were even some touching moments that did not at all detract from the style of the film. In essence though this film is about Ricky Gervais and his unique style of delivering laughs - that daft smile, his attention to silly details, his accent - there's very much of the Office in his performance and that is how it should be - that is Ricky Gervais and he shouldn't change it one bit. There are very few films that catch the attention of myself, my wife and my two kids from start to finish, but this film did it. 9/10.
Seven Pounds (2008)
This film could not fail for me, having actors Will Smith and Rosario Dawson starring. Nevertheless the director Gabriele Muccino should be commended for making a film that at first confuses you, then intrigues you, and finally moves you. The film moves along slowly, but is paced just nicely at 2 hours as we gently build up the past that is leading to the present. There are those situations in life you hope never happen to you, those occurrences that can be through some ill twist of fate, or one terrible moment of distraction. How would we behave in such a situation? This is how the character of Will Smith behaves, attempting to positively influence the lives of those that need it, and more importantly, deserve it.
Fed up of these action films
Films like Transformers have just lost all sense of reality. I know sci-fi cannot be 100% realistic, but there has to be a limit. Transformers just goes on and on for over 2 hours, action scene after action scene. Sure, the special effects are great, although a little annoying at times as it's a little too in your face and close-up. The plot is really feeble, which is why I guess they had to pack it so full of action. I get the feeling that Hollywood is continuously trying to out-do itself, and with films like this has forgotten the importance of a convincing storyline and a semblance of reality! As I watched I just got the feeling that nobody of any importance was ever going to die, whether the transformers or the actors, no matter how far they were thrown are how hard they were hit, despite buildings falling all around them. To add to the disappointment, we were treated to some terribly cringe worthy lines from some of the transformers towards the end. I think films like Transformers are simply an insult to the public's intelligence, but judging by some of the reviews here I'm perhaps living on another planet.
I know this film follows closer to the book than the original, but that does not automatically ensure it's a better film. I'm afraid I preferred the original - Johnny Depp was just too weird for my taste, and if that was how Wonka was supposed to be, then I can understand why Gene's Wilder's interpretation was of a warmer Wonka. But also this new version bored me. We went from scene to scene without any real continuity - I didn't get to dislike the other kids as much as I should have done - it all seemed very shallow. There wasn't enough depth in the characters of the other children and their parents. I believe the original film took license to make a film that was actually better than the book, rather than attempting to stick to it. Also in this film the Chocolate factory itself disappointed me - I actually found it a depressing place. To save the film was the acting of Charlie and the family who were all great, as was Christopher Lee as Wonka's father.
Broken Flowers (2005)
Here again Bill Murray acts the part of a dull washed-up middle-aged man. After seeing Lost in Translation, I'm beginning to wonder if this is the only way he can act in a serious role. The film had the premise for being so much more interesting. After being left by his latest girl-friend, he receives a letter from an anonymous ex-girlfriend saying he has a son that has come to search for him. So Bill goes out visiting his old girlfriends to try and find out for himself who this son is. What follows is a serious of meetings with his old flames, where he hardly says a word, doesn't explain why he's visiting, and then leaves to see the next one. Really, what was the point? Much film is spent watching him getting in and out of cars, driving down highways, through countryside, and so on, and perhaps those are the most interesting parts. The film does keep you watching, as there is a mystery to solve after all, but I found the end a complete let down.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Did nothing for me
In general I like slow-paced films when others do not, but I found this film tedious. I can't quite grasp what it is about it that people could have liked so much. Two sad characters, living lonely moments in Tokyo, build an unlikely relationship. I disliked the script, and some of the scenes were just damned silly! Do we really wish to see a group of half-drunken people singing Karaoke badly? Bill Murray was as dull as I've ever seen a character in a film, why on earth would Scarlet Johansson's character have had any interest in him? He did nothing to interest her, on the contrary, he was just plain boring, as often as not, lost for what to say in the many moments of silence during the film. I simply cannot understand why this film has received such rave reviews.
The Girl in the Café (2005)
A wonderful romance
I adored this film. Two lonely people meet in a café and a relationship slowly develops. Wonderful feel, aided by the delicate soundtrack in the background that depicts two very lonely and quirky characters that do not at first appear to be matched. The male lead is a civil servant that attends the G8 conference in Reykjavik taking along the lady but doesn't expect his love and professional life to be turned so upside down
Extremely well acted. As is so often the case, small budget low-key films are often the most enjoyable and thought-provoking and this is one of them.
Kona Coast (1968)
Perhaps the worst film I've ever seen
Just happened to wake up at 3am last night and went to watch satellite TV to try and get back to sleep and this came on. This film was so bad that it was compelling viewing and as a result I couldn't get back to sleep!
A quite poor script, and dreadful acting by ALL concerned, but worst of all was the plot which has been explained by previous posters so I won't repeat it here. The film attempts to potray emotion and dignity and utterly fails - not even the funeral of one of the main characters made you care. The characters are completely devoid of any depth or meaning, and you really don't give a damn about what happens to any of them.
An American Rhapsody (2001)
A true story: While her parents and older sister flee Hungary a young girl is unfortunately left behind with her grand-mother who then ends up in prison. The young girl is adopted by a childless couple who adoringly bring her up until she is 5 or 6, at which point her grandmother takes her back to her real parents in the USA. The young child is very brave, but also confused, and never forgets her adopted parents. This story leaves you feeling desperate for all those involved. The scenes of the girl in her early years with her adopted parents are very powerful and poignant. They are so genuine and sincere in their love for the child and they hope she will never have to leave them, but deep down they know that some day it will happen, and it happens when they are least expecting it. I can't imagine the pain those two people went through, as well as the child, and yet there is more to come. I spent the whole film fighting back the tears, I was completely absorbed by the depth of feeling. Some have said this film was flawed in some aspects but I'm no film critic and I have to say that I was so involved with the story and first class acting that if it was flawed I didn't notice. It is slow-paced but justly so. I was happy with the ending and felt it resolved nicely.
A note about the acting which was superb throughout. I'm a big fan of Tony Goldwyn who is perfect in these roles. The young Suzanne was delightful and incredibly genuine as were the adopted parents that were so authentic. The teenage Suzanne was also very naturally interpreted and believable. All in all, a fine film.
Angel Eyes (2001)
I thought this film was brilliant
I have to say I can't believe some of the reviews I've read of this film here. I thought this film was extremely well acted, had an original story line, and a quirky but interesting script. I'm impressed by Jennifer Lopez's acting, James Caviezel's interpretation was fantastic and there was great chemistry between them on the set. I was intrigued right throughout. It was well-paced, and just had a good feel about it, something which I find is missing in 95% of films being made these days. 9 out of 10.
Great Expectations (1998)
A satisfactory rework of an old classic
Having read the book I was curious to see how this story could be adapted to modern times, and based in the U.S. at that. The book has many very complex sub-plots and I think they did well in this film to streamline the plot in the way they did. Unlike many of the others that have commented, I liked the portrayal of Estella and Fin by the two leads, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke, but not the artificial over-acting of Anne Bancroft as the twisted Ms. Dinsmoor. My main gripe would be that the film could have been longer and more in-depth. In the first half of the film they could have developed more the relationship between the three main protagonists, the young Fin and Estella, and Ms. Dinsmoor, as there really wasn't quite enough there to merit Fin's passion for Estella in the rest of the film. All in all however, a satisfactory rework of an old classic.
Much better than I expected
As usual, I didn't get caught up in the hysteria and watch this film when it came out, instead waiting for the film to arrive on TV. I must say, I expected trash and instead was profoundly affected by the film. I thought the acting was very good, a good performance from Di Caprio, and Kate Winslet was positively gorgeous. I see many commenters say they observed closely Di Caprio's acting and didn't like it, but why watch a film to "observe" the acting? Acting is good when you don't notice it's acting. A script is good when you don't notice any bad lines. If you look specifically for things then you'll watch a film in an artificial manner and find all sorts of things. Titanic is to be enjoyed, for many reasons. The romance is sublime, the special effects are dazzling, the way classes were treated so differently is shocking, the tragedy of seeing those passengers perish is haunting and stayed with me for a couple of days afterwards. All in all Titanic is a powerful film, well directed, and for me, deserved many of the oscars it received. For once the hollywood blockbuster movie was worth the millions spent on it.
This Is the Sea (1997)
Sweet romance in tense surroundings
Based in Northern Ireland during the ceasefire between catholic and loyalist terrorist groups, this film brings together two people living completely separate ways of life. Hazel (Samantha Morton) is a sweet young protestant girl living in the countryside outside Belfast. Her mother's strong religious beliefs give little scope for Hazel to do her own thing, but she is helped by her less strict father and local friend of the family, Old Man Jacobs (Richard Harris) who accompanies her on trips to Belfast. Here she meets Malachy, a young catholic lad whose life is surrounded by those involved in terrorist groups, while he himself does his best to steer clear of it. Malachy falls for Hazel, but courtship is difficult. Fortunately, old Man Jacobs assists Hazel in her desire to meet up with Malachy, but is all as innocent as it looks? A contrast between a nice romance and the terrorist underworld, giving the impression that no matter who you are in Northern Ireland, terrorism is never far away from your doorstep.
The Game (1997)
I'm amazed to see this film has a high vote on IMDB. I thought this film was entirely proposterous. It starts out interesting, with Michael Douglas a lonely rich man with no sense of humour. He contacts CRS and the game starts. What follows is entirely unbelievable, very boring and did not surprise me in any way. The yawn count was high. Acting was OK, but the plot was not!
The Con (1998)
One of those (TV) films that you think is going to be a dud and then surprises you. I was mildly amused throughout the film. Nice performances from the two leads, William H. Macy and Rebecca De Mornay, backed up by a good cast. Not a memorable film, but a pleasant one to pass away the evening.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
An interesting story line about a young man with violent tendancies that is a genius at solving mathematical proofs and anything else he cares to lend a hand at. The genius (Will Hunting) is played by Matt Damon, who is a newcomer to me and I must say he has a strong screen presence - his acting was first class. Robin Williams plays the psychiatrist that tries to get to the bottom of Will's problems. Will is so intelligent that in the discussions with the psychiatrist it is more often the psychiatrist's life that is put in question. Although I enjoyed the film, it was slow at times and the ending, although emotional, was a little understated. Fine acting makes this film worth watching but be warned there are a lot of 4-letter words.
Big Night (1996)
Enoyable but slightly disappointing
Well I have mixed thoughts on this film. In some ways it delighted me, in other ways it disappointed. Primo (first-born child) and Secondo (second-born) are two Italian brothers living in the U.S. but their restaurant business is going nowhere. The locals of the town just don't appreciate good Italian cooking, like the lady one evening that eats both a plate of risotto and then a plate of pasta in the same sitting and complains to Secondo that there is no dish of "spaghetti and meat-balls". Living in Italy and knowing of Italian food I really appreciated what it meant for Primo to never compromise his skill to cook anything that was less than what he was used to. Secondo wants to compromise, however, to make some money, and a great part of the story is based on this tension. But they adore each other all the same. Half way through the film it devotes itself to the "big night" where some famous jazz player is coming to eat there, which Secondo hopes will turn their fortunes, while Primo gets everything prepared. This is where the film reminds a little too much of "Babette's Feast", with slightly disappointing results. Nevertheless, "Big Night" is an enjoyable film, albeit a little slow at times, it can be funny and touching and expertly demonstrates the differences in cultures between Italy and the U.S.
Picture Perfect (1997)
Almost enjoyable but entirely forgettable
Almost enjoyable but entirely forgettable with a big scene at the end which made me cringe, being a re-working of the Crocodile Dundee ending (which has been copied so many times now). Jennifer Aniston plays a hysterical and less likeable version of her character in Friends. Kevin Bacon is very weak in his role and completely unbelievable as a man that Jennifer would fall for. This is probably billed as a romantic comedy but I found very little evidence of romance (particularly in Jennifer's role) although there were some humourous moments. Worth watching if you're a couch potatoe, otherwise forget it!
Together with Seinfeld and Friends, it's another top American comedy show that we are viewing frequently in the U.K. recently. When I say "top", I mean "top notch". In the 70's and 80's I was used to switching off American comedies, but these 3 shows have made me reconsider my bias! I particularly like the way Ellen introduces so many irrelevancies into her dialogue, she kind of says what other people would only think but not dare say for fear of being boring. At some point in the series she declares herself to be gay, and while it obviously changes the direction of the show a little, it doesn't get heavy going about it and is still as funny as ever no matter what your tendencies. I love all the other characters too; the show was better for the entry of Audrey, Paige and cousin Adam - they each have their own very identifiable traits that enrich the plot. The cousin is particularly funny, especially in scenes together with Paige.
We also like it over here
Seinfeld is a show about nothing that has a bit of everything. I don't know exactly what it is about this show, but it has me on the floor in hysterics of laughter in nearly every episode. We are getting re-runs and re-runs of the re-runs on Sky's Paramount Comedy Channel in the U.K. and so I often end up watching the same episode two or three times within a few months. And yet each time I watch the re-run I laugh just as much as the first time, if not more. The characters are brilliant and you are attracted to them because they all have flaws that you or I might have. George is a scream. Krama is wacky and took a bit of getting used to but now I love his every brief appearance. Elaine is just fantastic. The show where she laughed during the piano recital of George's girlfriend is possibly my favourite. Or maybe the one where Seinfeld and George are both afraid of Elaine's father and so stay in the toilet as long as possible to avoid him. Sheer brilliance - they can base a whole episode on these seemingly insignificant insecurities that most people have but don't talk about because they don't want to appear as being "uncool". The only downside? Well, I must say, the excerpts of Seinfeld's stand-up comedy shows don't really make me laugh, but I won't let that detract from the rest of this brilliant show. 10 out of 10.