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7/10
"Here's to Gods and Monsters"...
20 February 2020
Ernest Thesiger is superb in James Whale's sequel to "Frankenstein" as the scientist who has perfected the art of growing rather than harvesting tissue. When he meets up with Baron Frankenstein's original monster they set about coercing the reluctant Baron to create a wife for the lonely Boris Karloff. This is a cracking tale of science fiction, horror and even romance as the monster ends up endowed with far more "humanity" than either scientist. Una O'Connor and Elsa Lanchester are both great too, though feature sparingly. The special effects stand better scrutiny than many a sci-film being made twenty years later and the cannibalised classical musical score brings tension, joy, love and despair a-plenty to compensate for, admittedly a rather stilted script. Easily the best "Frankenstein" film ever made in my book.
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The Hunters (2013 TV Movie)
5/10
Put "Indiana Jones" and "Relic Hunter" in the blender and this is what you get...
20 February 2020
I suppose in the day, this would have been described as a tea-time family television movie for fans of simple action fantasy films. At that, it isn't at all bad - Robbie Amell and Keenan Tracey are two brothers (one the heartthrob beefcake; the other the geek) who discover when their parents go missing that they have been secretly trained all these years to be highly trained ninja-treasure hunters. Together with Amell's ex "Dylan" (Alexa PenaVega) they have some adventures trying to track down their family and some missing shards from an all powerful mirror (presumably not the one from "Snow White") Sure, it is preposterous - but it's fast moving with plenty of action, and stylishly put together.
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6/10
It all just takes too long...
20 February 2020
I always thought that Theo James might have made for a decent "007" but certainly not if this derivative story is anything to go by. It has shades of "Entrapment" about it, without the class or style. James plays a knowledgable art thief ("Ivan") who decides it is time to hang up his gloves once he has settled his late father's debts to "the Greek". He meets girl on a couple of jobs - a would-be actress (Emily Ratajkowski) who claims that she is being frozen out by a dodgy Hollywood producer. They form an unlikely alliance to try and help each other as he faces his final, and most ambitious heist, and away we go - with the FBI on our tail, to boot... It's only director Matt Asleton's third feature and he does a decent enough job keeping it all moving; it's a good looking film - but all in all, there is just not enough action and way too much chatter.
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6/10
Hope from hopelessness...
20 February 2020
Quite an illustrative tale of conforming, this film. It is gay themed, but could equally apply to anyone new to an environment and who struggles to fit in. Here, two classmates who share a room form an unlikely bond; one a star sportsman and the other a bit of a pariah. It has two redeeming features of note - the use of sport as a positive conduit, albeit via a pretty circuitous route; and by allowing initially hostile characters to reprioritise their beliefs and accept a relationship that would otherwise attract their derision (as, indeed, it does initially). Fionn O'Shea and Nicholas Galitzine - with a bit of help from their teacher Andrew Scott - contribute well, with a strong, plausible, script to make for a decent drama.
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Beach Rats (2017)
6/10
A toxic tale of identity and self-discovery.
20 February 2020
Harris Dickinson goes out on a bit of a career-defining limb with this role - and generally pulls off a convincing effort as a sexually repressed/confused teenager who leads a triple life - with a straight girlfriend; with his macho homophobic mates and when he picks up strangers online - or on Coney Island pier - for casual sex. The story is nothing new, but this is an edgier and grittier rendition of the coming-out story. I have to say that his character is really not a nice man; he manipulates as far as he can and ultimately gets his just desserts; he is thoughtless, reckless and selfish. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted and at times this is a very slow burn but I suspect that there are many young men going through a similar identity crisis, and dealing with it in much the same way.
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Vikingdom (2013)
4/10
Low budget Nordic fantasy adventure.
20 February 2020
Ok, it is a bit of a shocker, this film. It isn't that the acting is terrible, nor is the story - indeed it does have some imagination behind it - and I love these kind of fantasy stories. It is the SFX that truly let this down. Most of the snow effects (and there are plenty of them) make you think that you are inside a glass Christmas snowscape that has just been shaken; and the wizard has eyebrows to die for...! The dialogue is pretty diabolical and the fight scenes really do smell of badly established CGI. It has clearly been done on a small budget and if you treat it a such, you should make it through to the end; but keep your expectations low or you will suffer for it...
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6/10
Much better than average post-war British noir thriller.
20 February 2020
Robert Beatty is an artist who learns that his brother has been killed in a Italian car accident. As you'd expect, that's just the start of it - the mystery revolves around a postcard featuring a glass of Chianti being held in a woman's hand... Who has it? What does it mean? Is it a clue to the mysterious death? This is a far more layered thriller than you'd expect - the performances are taut and the dialogue less meandering than in many other UK-made dramas of the time. Geoffrey Keen is good as the sceptical police inspector and although you do get the gist well before the end, it's still quite a suspensefully directed (by Guy Green) 80 minutes.
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Sabotage (1936)
7/10
Quite a resonating story - even 80 years later.
20 February 2020
Perhaps not one of Hitchcock's most prominent films, but it's a tense crime thriller telling the tale of a family of recent émigrés to Britain who are struggling to run their small London cinema. Oskar Homolka ("Mr. Verloc") falls foul of some criminals who offer to pay him for carrying out an act of sabotage. This doesn't quite cause the mayhem they desire so he is unwittingly, this time, involved a much more deadly action. Unbeknown to him, Scotland Yard are on to them and have planted a detective (John Loder) in the greengrocers who befriends the family. The plot unfolds slowly and tensely. Loder and ("Mrs. Verloc") a slightly dewy-eyed Sylvia Sidney fall for each other as we go along. That storyline slightly districts from the suspense and the ending comes along a bit too rapidly for me. Great to watch, though...
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7/10
You make/break your own luck...
19 February 2020
Janet Gaynor was at the top of her game with the almost Dickens' inspired name "Esther Blodgett" - an aspiring actress who moves to Hollywood and happens upon a drunken, self-destructive "Norman Maine" (Fredric March) as she waitresses at a party. His star is definitely on the wain, but he sees something in her and before long she is topping the bill. No singing in this version, which I think makes it a grittier adaptation of the story. Oddly enough, I find that the colour is quite distracting - it would have looked much better in black and white. That said, the dialogue is sharp and the pace likewise and it's an enjoyable watch.
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Emma. (2020)
6/10
A cinematic meringue - looks good but nothing much underneath.
19 February 2020
The snag with so much of Jane Austen's works is that they are delicate, intricate and rely on the written word to slowly evolve the characterisations, and therefore the plot. This film makes the ultimate climax to the story as plain as the nose on your face from the get-go. Once we are in on that, it becomes an exercise in damage limitation as our true loves navigate their route to a happy ending. In this respect, though this film is beautiful to look at; the costumes are first rate and the photography in/around England's Gloucestershire country houses is gorgeous - the delivery of the story falls rather flat. It is interesting to see Josh O'Connor and Callum Turner in morning dress; Miranda Hart tries hard as the sort of "Mother Goose" figure and it has moments that reflect the comedic nature of the original; but overall it is just a rather pale imitation of the book. It's a good twenty minutes too long and the score is intrusive - even at the most delicate or poignant moments of the film, music frankly interferes with the imagery
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Carnage (2011)
6/10
Disappointingly over-scripted Polanski effort.
19 February 2020
A couple of young kids have an incident in a park and their parents get together to try and sort things out. What starts off as a rational, polite supper deteriorates into an anger-strewn series of conversations that draw attention not just to the issue in hand but also to problems within their own relationships. As the discussions start to get out of control and begin to border on the infantile - peppered by the frequent interruptions by their mobile phones; we descend into a verbose and argumentative sequence of events. At times it can be quite poignant and funny, but mostly it takes a lot of language to go nowhere. The promising cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz & John C. Reilly deliver in a theatrical manner that after a while becomes relentlessly tedious.
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Mother (2009)
7/10
Truth, perseverance and determination - Korean style.
19 February 2020
This is a corking film from Bong Joon Ho with an equally super performance from Hye-ja Kim as the "Mother". Her son "Soon Do-joon" (Won Bin) is accused of murdering a young girl. The police seem convinced of his guilt and her lawyer suggests he be detained in an hospital - rather than a prison - so she sets out, determinedly, to establish his innocence. As she takes to her task, she soon becomes obsessed, her own mentally stability begins to wobble and we are drawn into a dark, almost sombre, crime thriller. It has plenty of twists and turns, and by the end (which comes pretty much from the left field) I almost felt exhausted. This is as engrossing a film as I've seen in many years, with an excellent (almost Andalusian in style) accompanying score - well worth watching. (Maybe less so if you are not so keen on acupuncture needles!)
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7/10
Unhappiness is the enemy of good judgment....
19 February 2020
It's interesting to see Edward G. Robinson cast as the downtrodden bank cashier, trapped in a loveless marriage, who has a penchant for painting. He comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress "Kitty March" (Joan Bennett) who is having a tough time with her loutish boyfriend "Johnny Prince" (Dan Duryea). He falls for her hook, line and sinker only to discover she has assumed that he is a wealthy man and she tries to manipulate and embezzle from him. Soon, he is caught in a cyclical trap and we know he is heading for disaster. What is most odd is the sight of Robinson in an apron preparing some liver. A clever crime thriller from Fritz Lang with good performances for the three principals.
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6/10
Glorious example of the photographers art...
19 February 2020
What is really striking about this fairly loose adaptation of Henry James' turn of the 20th Century novella is the use of natural light/shadow. Clara van Gool creates something akin to the original Merchant Ivory look that is very natural and comfortable to observe. Unfortunately, the substance doesn't keep pace with the look. Deliberately, the characters seem to dance, literally, around each other sustained only slightly by a limiting dialogue. The timelines shift about from WWII to 21st century London with "John Marcher" (Dane Hurst) a man who believes his future is predestined to be defined by an event of an immense nature. He meets up, after an absence of ten years or so, with "May Bartram" (Sarah Reynolds) and she hangs about with him as they both await this "cataclysmic" event. It requires a considerable degree of concentration and despite some people suggesting it may be semi-autobiographical, I don't really believe there is enough substance in the story to keep this beautifully photographed piece interesting.
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Whisky Galore (2016)
5/10
Some film simply don't need to be remade...
18 February 2020
A perfectly charming remake of the cracking 1949 version of Compton MacKenzie's tale of a remote Scottish island that, during the privations of WWII, finds a passing ship wrecked on its shores with an enormous cargo of whisky aboard. Their antics to "rescue" the contents and keep it from the prying eyes of the local Home Guard captain (Eddie Izzard) and the Customs & Excise men are told using a cast of established Scots actors - Gregor Fisher; James Cosmo, Ken Drury et al. It isn't in the same class as the original; possibly because it is in colour and also the story is largely a straight update - but it is worth a watch.
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4/10
Excruciatingly dull...
18 February 2020
Sorry, but this is a really poor attempt at an action film. Margot Robbie is Ok as the feisty heroine from the title, but the rest of the cast are instantly forgettable. I am guessing that Ewan McGregor - the dastardly villain of the piece - was only available for a few filming days as his appearances are pretty shallow from a characterisation perspective and add little to the plot. The interminable fight scenes reminded me of "Bugsy Malone" (1976) only without the custard pies.
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Nightcrawler (2014)
7/10
Long before there was "fake news" there were odious newsmen...
18 February 2020
Jake Gyllenhaal is superbly charismatic and worryingly plausible in this story about a failed con man who discovers there is a living to be made from tapping into police communications and then getting to the scene of the crimes to film and sell on the incidents to the constantly avaricious news organisations. He finds one such character in Rene Russo, the editor of an under-performing news channel. Together they form a relationship that fuels both of their almost psychopathic needs for attention and success, with little regard for the truth - indeed he soon loses perspective between reacting to crimes and starts to create opportunity. Riz Ahmed is good, too, as his sidekick. It's a bit on the long side, but sharply directed.
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I, Robot (2004)
7/10
An enjoyable race-against-the-machine thriller...
18 February 2020
Will Smith is a cop who detests artificial intelligence with a vengeance; despite the fact that he has a substantial part of his body made up of enhanced prosthetics after a car accident. When an executive from the world's largest robot production company commits suicide, he has to investigate and soon discovers a plot to take subjugate humanity. "I Robot" is a clever exposé on how AI could take over the world; largely by capitalising on the indifference of people, our obsession with convenience and reliance on technology. Smith and Bridget Moynahan - and Alan Tudyk as "Sonny" a rogue robot designed to reveal the plot - turn in good fun performances as we try to stop the robot revolution. It's quite a well written and pacily directed couple of hours.
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Eagle Eye (2008)
6/10
Clever take on AI abuse in this end-to-end action thriller
18 February 2020
Reminded me very much of "I Robot" as a couple who had never met before become embroiled in a sequence of events generated by a controlling voice on the phone who can manipulate almost every aspect of their lives remotely. Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan keep this action thriller moving along quite well as they try to stay one step of the pursuing FBI agents (Billy Bob Thornton & Rosario Dawson) and defy their controller. There's enough jeopardy and tension to keep the plot interesting right til the end.
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The Lighthouse (I) (2019)
7/10
Don't be fooled by any "art-house" label - this is a great psychological thriller...
18 February 2020
Willem Dafoe & Robert Pattison deliver strong performances in this gripping tale of life stranded on a remote island where they keep a lighthouse. The latter starts off as a more responsible, sensible character in the face of his uncouth, bullying, alcoholic companion but as we develop, we see the influence on Pattinson soon becomes more toxic and we descend into a psychological drama where nothing/no-one makes a lot of sense. The monochrome photography adds greatly to the eeriness of the production; the dark skies; sweeping seascapes; torrid weather conditions - and the story combines nautical myths and superstitions with human frailties in a compelling fashion. It's a film about two people - there isn't any definable storyline, or structure - it evolves in an entirely fluid manner that adds much to the tension and makes it well worth a watch (ideally on a big screen).
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Parasite (2019)
7/10
A film of two halves...
18 February 2020
I very much enjoyed the first half of this movie. The premiss that a family of grifters manage to infiltrate a pretty vacuous wealthy family by pretending to be, initially, a qualified English teacher, then an off-the-wall art teacher; a chauffeur and finally a housekeeper is original, funny and harmless. The humorous and mischievous way the family gel with their ambitions for a better life is a testament to the excellent performances from the four the principal characters. Regrettably, however, the second half descends quite rapidly into a farcical story that drags it down. Their harmless deception takes on a far more sinister - and implausible - guise as we quite literally discover (living) bodies under the stairs. It's now almost slapstick; ultimately violent and Bong Joon Ho now just seems to have lost his way. Yeo-jeong Jo is good, too, as the wealthy wife and I would heartily highly recommend this film, but it is - in my opinion - nowhere near as good as "Mother".
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6/10
Starts interestingly enough, but peters out quite quickly...
17 February 2020
Not as bad as I feared it would be, this. Miles Robbins is quite good playing the psychologically all-over-the-place "Luke" who has had his share of trauma in his young life; not least with the help of his impish, evil, imaginary friend "Daniel", trying to kill his mother after his parents divorced. Patrick Schwarzenegger plays the friend - and isn't very good/convincing; indeed as his role develops he becomes more irritating. It's isn't a bad adaptation of Brian DeLeeuw's novel, but the second half of the film is just too preposterous and the special effects manage to rob the film of any serious horror pretence. Worth a watch, but you've seen it all before.
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7/10
The perfect ingredients for a top notch drama...
17 February 2020
Wow! I've just seen a new 4K version of this and what a performance from Vivien Leigh as "Blanche DuBois" in this visceral adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play. She portrays the emotionally conflicted Southern Belle is striking fashion; this really is a tour de force performance. She loses the family home and ends up slumming it with her sister (Kim Hunter) and her swarthy lout of a husband - Marlon Brando. Sadly, though he looks sexy and smouldering; he doesn't quite carry the part of "Stanley" strongly enough for me. He has suspicions about what happened to "Blanche" and the family home, but the attempts at (largely drink induced) conflict don't quite work - she simply dwarfs him every time they are on screen together - as with Karl Malden as her would-be beau. As we discover a little more of Blanche's past; there is something almost syphilitic about her rapidly declining mental state. Elia Kazan works wonders with this; and Alex North creates a jazzy-style score that helps create an incredible atmosphere.
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The Bigamist (1953)
7/10
A thoughtful, romantic, take on a menage-à-trois
12 February 2020
Edmond O'Brien is a happily married (to Joan Fontaine) travelling salesman who succumbs to boredom one night when away from home and meets "Phyllis" - Ida Lupino. It's not a hook-up in any conventional way - they meet on a tourist bus doing the rounds of the Hollywood mansions; but their relationship blossoms, they marry and have a son together. It's quite possible that this web of deceit could have gone on indefinitely but for the fact that wife number one can't have a child, so they decide to adopt and Edmund Gwenn, as the adoption investigator, discovers this double-life and it all starts to become messy. Ida Lupino directed this with more than a little skill; we never actually feel hatred for O'Brien; by the end we might even sympathise with how pathetic he has become. Does provide some food for thought as to the role of the legal system in scenarios like this...
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7/10
Strong performances from Howard & Davis
12 February 2020
I can tell when I am engaged with a film if I want to get off the chair and strangle one of the cast... Well Leslie Howard engenders exactly that feeling as he plays the hapless, lovestruck "Philip" who has fallen in love with the nasty, scheming "Mildred" - Bette Davis (with a rather dodgy English agent). The chemistry between the two of them is great. She treats him appallingly, yet like a doting puppy he comes back for more each time. John Cromwell keeps this going deftly; we see the characterisations from W. Somerset Maugham's novel unfold before us and I felt genuinely invested.
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