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7/10
A real surprise ... and in a good way.
19 February 2020
Can a film top-heavy with jargon, computer-speak and all sorts of things I personally am not familiar with be interesting? I mean, as far the subject matter goes Kim Nguyen's "The Hummingbird Project" might as well have been in a foreign language without subtitles yet this picture about a couple of computer geeks, (Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skaarsgard), striking out on their own to make millions is both a lot of fun and ultimately very moving even if you can't always make sense of it.

This is largely due to the thoroughly obnoxious and yet totally brilliant Eisenberg in his best geeky mode while the usually ultra-handsome Skaarsgard, now with bald head and glasses to up his geek level, tunrs in a lovely serio-comic performance. Unfortunately Salma Hayek is totally miscast as the high-powered executive they go up against but since almost everyone was talking double-dutch her performance didn't seem that out of place. Of course, despite the comedy-thriller element, (will they succeed? will they get caught?), and the strong human interest story this sure isn't going to pack them in on a Saturday night. However, give yourself over to its oddball charms and you may be very pleasantly surprised.
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8/10
A very unusual and very fine western.
18 February 2020
"Westward the Women" may not be the greatest western ever made but it's certainly one of the most unusual and is, indeed, very fine and I'm amazed it isn't better known. The women in question are 140 brides being brought West for for the male townsfolk in a Californian valley on a wagon-train lead by Robert Taylor. The director of the picture was William Wellman and William C. Mellor shot it in crisp black-and-white and it has a fine screenplay by Charles Schnee from a story by none other than Frank Capra.

As wagon-train movies go, it's not only unusual but remarkably robust and full of incident and it deals with the male/female dynamic with a surprising degree of honesty and if you don't think so, remember this was 1951. It's certainly not sentimental and Wellman approaches his subject with much the same documentary-like realism that John Ford brought to "Wagonmaster". In a good supporting cast Denise Darcel and Hope Emerson stand out.
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Made in U.S.A (1966)
2/10
Only if you love Godard.
18 February 2020
Godard at his most infuriating. "Made in U.S.A." is visually superb, (Raoul Coutard is once again the DP), but so enigmatic as to be virtually pointless. It's like an academic treatise on American Film Noir; in other words, how not to do a film noir. If it's meant to be politically relevant it was lost on me. Dropping words like 'Communism' and 'Hanoi' in the middle of a scatalogically surreal screenplay don't imbue them with significance anymore than naming your characters Donald Siegel, Richard Widmark, David Goodis adds up to anything other than a cheap homage. Karina is the star, in colour, and she's gorgeous and you might say that as 'pure cinema', unencumbered by logic or reason, the film actually works but I think you need to be a real Godard aficionado to appreciate it or even to get it. The best thing I can say about it is that it's quite short.
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4/10
This subject deserves better....
16 February 2020
An intelligent, if lugubrious, account of how Adolf Eichmann was captured in Buenos Aires and returned to Israel to stand trial. About the best you can say of Chris Weitz's "Operation Finale" is that it's a decent history lesson but a poor film with a miscast Ben Kingsley as Eichmann, (at the time the film was set Eichmann was 54 while Kingsley is 76 and looks it). As one of the men who did the actual capturing and who, in this film at least, is seen to form a kind of bond with his prisoner, Oscar Isaac isn't at all bad but everyone else in the cast is just some kind of pawn. What's lacking is any sense of urgency. I hate to say it but the film might have been better if it were less tasteful; it's almost as if everyone connected with the film were afraid to get their hands dirty so it's all handled with kid gloves. Material like this deserves better.
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7/10
No masterpiece but undeniably entertaining
15 February 2020
While it's never likely to go down as one of the great biopics or even as one of the great dance pictures, "The White Crow" is much more enjoyable than I anticipated. The director is Ralph Fiennes who also plays the part of the dance teacher Aleksandr Pushkin and while it's not quite a thriller he does place the emphasis on Nureyev's defection to the West and he's greatly helped by the casting of the dancer Oleg Ivanko as Nureyev who dances brilliantly and proves himself more than credible as an actor.

There's also a good deal of background information of Nureyev's childhood and his early career in Russia while his homosexuality is given its due but fundamentally its main focus is on his eventual escape while authenticity is established by Fiennes' use of Russian almost throughout. It was adapted by David Hare from Julie Kavanagh's biography of the dancer and it does have a fine literary bent to it. Fiennes may not be the most imaginative of directors but he does know a good yarn when he sees one and "The White Crow" is definitely a good yarn.
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The Fugitive (1993)
9/10
Sheer pleasure from start to finish.
15 February 2020
If you have to make a big screen film version of a long-running television series then "The Fugitive" is the way to go. The original series ran for four years from 1963 to 1967 and is now regarded as something of a television classic. What writers Jeb Stuart and David Twohy and director Andrew Davis have done is to break almost one hundred hours of television down to a very crisp two and they have done it superbly.

By now I'm sure almost everyone knows the story of how Dr. Richard Kimble, accused of the brutal murder of his wife, though innocent, escaped from custody and is pursued by a dogged US Marshall. On TV these roles were played by David Janssen and Barry Morse and are now played by Harrison Ford and a terrific Tommy Lee Jones, who won the Oscar for his performance. The real killer, of course, is the famous, or infamous, one-armed man and Kimble is out to find him.

This is the chase film par excllence and is one of the greatest thrillers of the nineties. Ford and Jones may carry the picture but there isn't a bad performance in sight and Davis handles the virtually non-stop action superbly; it's almost one set-piece after another. An almost obscenely entertaining picture.
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3/10
Unusual setting but largely mediocre.
13 February 2020
"The Frozen Ground" is an Alaska-set serial killer movie that might have been a lot better if director Scott Walker hadn't gone overboard with a roving camera that never sits still together with some very flashy editing. This is kinetic movie-making of the worst kind. It's also not that easy to follow as Walker never keeps his camera in the one place long enough for us to get a handle on what's happening and his use of flashbacks only adds to the confusion.

John Cusack is the serial killer and Nicolas Cage, the cop who is tracking him and it's based on fact. Cage is less mannered than usual and Cusack seems to be building up something of a profile playing murderous scumbags. Since we know who the killer is from the start there is no real suspense and the performances are largely unconvincing. Only the chilly locations prove to be a point of interest.
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3/10
Well made but very unpleasant.
11 February 2020
This dark Western, although set deep in the heart of the Old West, was actually filmed in Connemara by the Irish director Ivan Kavanagh and the rain-soaked Irish terrain is perfectly suited to "Never Grow Old"'s theme of violence and revenge. Emile Hirsch, whose Irish accent keeps slipping, is badly cast as the weak-willed undertaker whose business picks up after creepy John Cusack arrives in the town of Garlow with his gang and begins terrorising the community.

It strives for the same kind of grim realism that distinguished the revisionist Westerns of the seventies but falls far short and at times it looks and feels more like a horror film and there are so many night shots it is often impossible to tell what's actually happening. Kavanagh may know his movies but this is just a pale imitation of Altman's masterpiece "McCabe and Mrs Miller". He could also do with upping the pace. Ultimately, it's watchable but also very unpleasant.
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Cromwell (1970)
7/10
Good, intelligent historical epic.
10 February 2020
A seriously solid, if not very imaginative, piece of historical pageantry, (Oscar winning costume design for starters), about the English Civil War and in particular, Oliver Cromwell's role in it. Ironically, in view of Cromwell's association with Ireland, he is played, and very well, by the Irish actor Richard Harris. The King is a very well cast Alec Guinness, (looking just like the many portraits of the time), and a host of acting royalty, (Dorothy Tutin, Robert Morley, Patrick Wymark, Patrick Magee, Frank Finlay, Nigel Stock), provide staunch support. Ultimately it works best as a beautifully photographed history lesson, (Geoffrey Unsworth is the DP). The director, Ken Hughes, who also wrote the verbose screenplay, does little to make it lively, though the battle scenes are spectacular and it's both handsome and intelligent. Worth seeing.
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Broken City (2013)
6/10
Enjoyable if overly complicated.
7 February 2020
An entertaining, if overly complicated, thriller about murder and corruption involving City Hall. It aims for the same kind of labyrinth, noirish feel that distinguished "Chinatown" but falls far short. Mark Wahlberg is the ex-cop who is being set up, Russell Crowe, (very good), is the corrupt mayor and Catherine Zeta-Jones is the mayor's wife and others in a good supporting cast include Kyle Chandler, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper and Griffin Dunne. The problem is there's just too much plot, most of it shrouded in mystery, with what I percieved to be a gay subplot getting lost in the mix. On the plus side, director Allen Hughes never pauses for breath and it looks great, (Ben Seresin was the DP), but it wasn't much of a success and has largely been forgotten.
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5/10
The cast just about saves it.
3 February 2020
The director was Charles Crichton, the starry cast included Stephen Boyd, Richard Attenborough, Jack Hawkins, (terrific and walking off with the movie), Diane Cilento, Paul Rogers, a fourteen year old Pamela Franklin and a certain Judi Dench in her film debut while Douglas Slocombe did the superb cinematography in black and white Cinemascope so why was "The Third Secret" such a load of old codswallop for most of its length. Easy; the script by Producer Robert L Joseph was a stinker.

It's a whodunit but given the material it's hard to care which of psychiatrist Peter Copley's patients bumped him off. The police have it down as suicide but his daughter, (a precocious Miss Franklin), believes it was murder and asks television journalist Boyd, (himself a patient), to play sleuth. Given the funereal pace of his investigation, (and the movie), it's difficult to see what audience the producers thought they might have. Perhaps they felt the cast alone would bring them in but the film has largely disappeared and is now of interest only for its use of London locations and for Judi Dench completists. Otherwise something of a folly.
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Unrelated (2007)
9/10
Could this be Joanna Hogg's masterpiece?
3 February 2020
Joanna Hogg's most recent film "The Souvenier" has been hailed as a masterpiece although personally I think it's a little too precious for masterpiece status. For me, her real masterpiece is her debut film "Unrelated" in which a group of truly appalling people, (an extended family and their friend, Anna), spend a summer together in Tuscany. The film is scripted and the people on screen are, mostly, actors but it could be a documentary or even an autopsy as Hogg dissects their lives in close-up. Seldom have people I have despised as much on film proved to be so fascinating and it's entirely down to Hogg's superlative direction and the extraordinary performances of the cast.

A young, and as then totally unknown, Tom Hiddleston is utterly brilliant as the oldest of the children and the one the guest, Anna, (an equally brilliant Kathryn Worth), takes a fancy to only to be rejected. As a director Hogg couldn't cut these people anymore deeply than if she used a scalpel instead of a camera.(Presumably she doesn't like them any more than I do but it's clear she knows them intimately). This is 'proper' cinema; this is cinema used for a purpose. You may find the characters and even the film itself reprehensible but I defy anyone to deny its brilliance.
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Buy Me a Gun (2018)
8/10
Almost unwatchable yet also unmissable.
2 February 2020
A horror movie but not in the way you might think. "Buy Me a Gun" could just as easily be called 'Field of Nightmares', set as it is around a deserted baseball camp used by Mexican drug cartels and looked after by Rogelio and his young daughter Huck who has to wear a mask to hide her identity. It's a terrifying film about simple, everyday violence from which no-one, particularly children, is safe. At the beginning we hear the voice of little Huck telling us that everything in the film is real and it certainly feels that way. Huck's dad is a drug addict and it's in drugs, not money, that the cartel pay him for looking after the field but as Huck observes, he's also lucky and that's why he's survived.

As you can imagine, Julio Hernandez Cordon's film is not an easy watch. As Huck has said, the horrors it shows are indeed real. Children are chained up in cages, tortured and mutilated and it's only the film's almost surreal nature and Cordon's use of colour that allows us to keep watching; a more realistic treatment would be unbearable. This is a remarkable film by a remarkable talent.
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5/10
Minor but with a kind of goofy charm.
2 February 2020
Kelly Reichardt's "River of Grass" may borrow more than liberally from early Terrence Malick but is none the worse for it. It's a shaggy dog story told with some humour and is certainly a lot less sonorous than the films that followed. It may be a fairly minor work, (we're not talking "Badlands" here, even with the Sissy Spacek like narration), but it has a goofy charm despite the ropey, amateurish performances and at 76 minutes is pleasantly short. It also makes good use of its depressingly bland Florida locations. If it doesn't mark Reichardt out as a major talent it shows that she was at least worth watching.
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That Summer (2017)
3/10
Narcissism run riot.
2 February 2020
Narcissism run riot and for collectors of celebrity gossip and curios only. "That Summer" is something of a companion piece to "Grey Gardens" featuring some of the same characters, (the Beales, mostly), but it's really nothing more than the home-movies of Peter Beard, whose friends included Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, Truman Capote. Andy Warhol etc. and it's full of the indolent doodlings of the super-rich. These people are so cut off from the real world they may as well be living on Mars. What's more, the cheap home-movie look of the picture is positively headache-inducing at times and like "Grey Gardens", there's something ghoulish about it but at least "Grey Gardens" felt like a real film, despite being highly intrusive. This is more like a vanity project gone wrong; a road-kill of a movie if there ever was one.
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Ad Astra (2019)
8/10
A very pleasant surprise.
2 February 2020
Sometimes it helps if you don't know too much about a movie before actually seeing it so what follows isn't so much a 'spoiler alert' as just a bit of a giveaway. All I knew about "Ad Astra" before seeing it was that it was about an astronaut, (Brad Pitt), travelling to the far reaches of the universe in search of his father; so far so pretentious. Having been massively disappointed by Claire Denis' highly praised and highflautin "High Life", I was in no mood for philosophical soul-searching in the deepest recesses of space so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that "Ad Astra" is really "Apocalypse Now" in Outer Space with Brad Pitt as the Willard character and Tommy Lee Jones as his Kurtz; the main difference being the man he's sent to stop 'with extreme prejudice' is his father.

"Ad Astra" is a smart, intelligent and actually very exciting Space Opera and it's as good as they come. It wastes no time in getting down to business, treats its space travel with a certain degree of realism, never short-changes on the action and actually succeeds in delivering the big father/son pay-off without seeming either pretentious or mawkish. If it has a fault it's that it's all over too quickly and with less drama than we might have hoped for.

Pitt, who is hardly ever off the screen, is superb. This could be a career-best role for him and Tommy Lee Jones is suitably world-weary, or space-weary, as his father. Unfortunately, no-one else is given very much to do; the likes of Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga come and go without adding very much to the proceedings. The director is James Gray and this should prove to be his big breakthrough film. Well worth seeing.
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6/10
Hanks is terrific...but I still felt like killing him!
1 February 2020
I like Tom Hanks; in fact, I like Tom Hanks a lot. I even think that, at his best, he can be a great actor but I wanted to kill Forrest Gump and now, all these years later, I want to kill Fred Rogers, the character, indeed the real-life character, Hanks plays in Marielle Heller's "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood". Mr Rogers, as he is known on American television, is one of those 'inspirational' TV hosts who teaches life lessons to children and shows them how to be 'nice' and apparently he's very good at it. In fact, he's something of a legend on American television. However, Heller's film isn't a biopic of Fred Rogers anymore than her "Can You Ever Forgive Me" was a biopic of Lee Israel. Rather it's the story of the friendship that developed between Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod, here renamed Lloyd Vogel and played by Matthew Rhys and the film is as twee as I imagined it was going to be.

That said, Hanks is superb. He's Mr. Rogers down to the marrow but I still wanted to kill him, (not literally, I might add). Maybe I'm not that nice a person but I have an aversion to 'sweetness and light'. Now don't get me wrong; that's not to say I have an aversion to children and I think it's great when 'grown-ups' can put themselves into children's shoes and relate them on their level but as Jesus himself said, when I became a man I put away childish things and the last thing I want is to be talked down to by an adult like Fred Rogers. I am sure he is 'the nicest man on the planet' but I'm glad I don't know him.

Of course, Heller's movie isn't all 'sweetness and light'. Rhys' journalist certainly isn't the nicest man on the planet. He's ordinary and angry and cynical and he gets into fights and maybe he's someone I wouldn't like to know either but I bet I could get drunk with him and have an adult conversation with him and Rhys is very good in the role as is Chris Cooper as the father he doesn't get along with. These characters add a very welcome touch of bitter to the sweet and give the film a much-needed edge. But in the end, this is Hanks' movie; love him or hate him, there is just no getting away from him. Even when he's not on screen you can feel his presence and that's Hanks' gift. I don't think he will win the Oscar for this but if he does, I won't complain.
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9/10
One of Eastwood's very best films.
1 February 2020
In 1996 a bomb exploded at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. The FBI's prime suspect was Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the bomb and "Richard Jewell" is also the name of the superb film that Clint Eastwood has made about the case; it's one of his very best movies. Eastwood is almost ninety years old. Most men his age would be content to sit on their front porch and watch the world go by; Eastwood is a man who gets up off his ass and tries to do something about the state of the world he's living in. He cares. Politically conservative and a staunch Republican he is a great believer in 'doing the right thing', even if politically he and I wouldn't always agree on how to go about it. He's also a great director, arguably the best American director still working today.

Eastwood is, as I've said before, a classicist; there are few tricks, if any, in his work. He edits his films for the maximum effect each scene can deliver, not from flashy pyrotechnics but from good dialogue and fine acting and the acting in "Richard Jewell" is as fine as in any Eastwood film. No-one puts a foot wrong but Paul Walter Hauser in the title role, Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates are outstanding.

Hauser is a character actor here given his chance at stardom which he grabs with both hands, (you might remember him as one of the racists in "Blackkklansman"). In lesser hands his character, though real, might have seemed just another cliche but Hauser makes him human while Rockwell as his lawyer and Bates as his mother lift parts that in lesser hands might have fallen flat. I know they are real people but these are traditional roles frequently seen in the movies of the past. Of course, a good deal of their success is down to Eastwood who handles his material with equal degrees of humour and sentiment. This is one of the best films of the year.
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Corpo Celeste (2011)
9/10
An astonishing debut.
31 January 2020
As anyone who has seen "The Wonders" or "Happy as Lazzaro" will know Alice Rohrwacher is one of the marvels of contemporary cinema. "Corpo Celeste" is her lesser-known, but no less astonishing, debut made with an almost documentary realism as we get to know the world through the eyes of 13 year old Marta as she comes to terms with growing up. Unlike other girls her age, however, Marta is subjected to perhaps a little more religious education than is usual as she prepares for her confirmation. This is Catholic Italy, after all.

Like Lazzaro, Marta is possessed of an innocence that is almost other-worldly. She might like to wear her big sister's bra but she's also remarkably childlike; Rohrwacher does innocence like no-one else. She also imbues her film with a nice sense of humour, even bordering on the cynical, (the priest whose ringtone on his mobile is 'The Minute Waltz' is both ambitious and something of a prig and is magnificently played by the late Salvatore Cantalupo). Indeed, Rohrwacher draws wonderfully naturalistic performances from her entire cast and in particular from Yie Vianello as Marta. In fact, "Corpo Celeste" isn't just a superb debut but one of the best films about both childhood and religion I've ever seen. With only three features to her name, Rohrwacher may just be my favourite director right now.
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10/10
The most enjoyable Dickens adaptation I think I've ever seen....
30 January 2020
If you thought Greta Gerwig's version of "Little Women" was radical wait until you see Armando Iannuci's "The Personal History of David Copperfield" which isn't so much an adaptation of Dickens' novel as a complete reworking and overhaul of it. This is Dickens as you've never seen him before with Dev Patel cast as David and a whole host of black and Asian actors cast in subsidiary roles with no obvious logic in the casting and it works magnificently. This is racial diversity at its most sublime; I wonder why no-one thought of it before.

Of course, that's only half of it. Iannuci's triumph is in his tinkering with the work in ways that are both highly cinematic and theatrical. It opens with an adult David addressing an audience in a theatre before moving through the backdrop into the story proper much in the same way Olivier did in his "Henry V". He attends his own birth; he's a boy David, (played by Jairaj Varsani), before becoming an adult before his time. Iannuci introduces the characters in David's life in a pell-mell fashion and leaves out others. If the film has a fault it's that Iannuci simply flies through it. No-one pauses for breath but I just didn't want it to stop.

The casting is sublime. Patel is Oscar-worthy as David. Iannuci even has the audacity to make him vaguely unsympathetic and even dislikeable at times. Was he like this in the book, I kept asking myself. Then there's the best supporting cast you are likely to see this year; Peter Capaldi and Derry's own Bronagh Gallagher as the wonderful Micawbers, Tilda Swinton as the most lovable Betsey Trotwood imaginable with Hugh Laurie, the wisest of all Mr Dick's, Rosalind Eleazar as a gorgeous Agnes and best of all, Ben Wishaw as the most unctuous of Uriah Heep's. Just give them all one big Oscar and be done with it. Of course, purists will hate it; a few people actually walked out of the screening I was at. As for me, it's probably not the best Dickens' adaptation I've ever seen but I'm sure it's the most enjoyable.
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Beau Geste (1939)
8/10
One of the best Boy's Own Adventures...
30 January 2020
As Boy's Own Adventures go "Beau Geste" is up there with the best of them. There have been a number of film and television versions including a silent one in 1926 with Ronald Colman as Beau, a mediocre version in 1966 and even a spoof version with Marty Feldman but the most famous version was this 1939 movie directed by William Wellman and starring Gary Cooper as Beau with Ray Milland and Robert Preston as his brothers and Brian Donleavy, Oscar-nominated as the sadistic Sergeant Markov. Milland's love interest was a very young and very beautiful Susan Hayward.

It's a tale of the Foreign Legion and at the heart of it is a mystery involving a stolen sapphire known as the Blue Water which all three Geste brothers claim to have stolen. The theft, of course, is central to the plot but the solving of the mystery as to who stole it doesn't hold up the action. It's a more serious picture than George Stevens' "Gunga Din", which also came out in '39, and is even more exciting. Cooper is the perfect hero and the superb supporting cast includes Albert Dekker, Broderick Crawford and J. Carrol Naish. A delightful, if far-fetched, treat.
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The Lighthouse (I) (2019)
8/10
Yes, it's a horror film but not as you know it....
29 January 2020
Shot in black and white and in an aspect ratio of 1.19:1, giving us an almost square screen like the early silent movies and with really only a cast of two, Robert Eggers' "The Lighthouse" might appear to be either highly innovative or hugely pretentious or maybe even both. The setting is a lighthouse on a small, craggy island off New England, circa the 1890's. The only characters are the two lighthouse keepers, one young, (Robert Pattinson), and the other something of an old sea-dog, (Willem Dafoe), who seem to take an instant dislike to each other. The only way they have to pass the time is to work and to let their imaginations run away with them.

Eggers' movie has been described as a horror film but like his earlier "The Witch", it's far from a conventional horror film. Its demons are those of the mind rather than the spectres of the supernatural and its physical horrors are much more disturbing than its metaphysical imaginings and in the end it's up to its two players to sustain it. Pattinson has probably never been better and Defoe is simply magnificent. His is the most difficult role; his crusty old dictator could so easily have been nothing more than a cliche but Defoe gives his character shadings not immeadiately apparent in the script, as indeed does Pattinson.

Unfortunately, despite a highly unsettling score by Mark Korven and Jarin Blaschke's stunning cinematography boredom does set in before the climax, which I suppose was only to be expected. Eggers simply can't provide enough incidents of terror or indeed anything else to make us fully care about its protagonists. That said, there is enough here to ensure at least cult status and a considerable future for its director.
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8/10
Surprisingly gripping portmanteau picture
27 January 2020
Warning: Spoilers
The life of a violin over a couple of centuries may seem an unlikely subject for a feature film but then remember that Julien Duvivier was able to assemble an all-star cast for the story of a tail-coat. "The Red Violin". which Francois Girard directed in 1998, was suficiently a hit to win the Oscar for its score and it has a suitably starry international cast, not all of whom last as long as the violin of the title, presumably because this particular instrument carries with it a curse.

It's a handsome and intelligent portmanteau picture which, in its period settings, looks genuinely authentic and it's to director Girard and co-writer Don McKellar's credit that the violin itself takes on a personality of its own with the film playing out very nicely as a thriller. If you missed it first time round, then you should seek it out now.
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9/10
One hell of a ride!
26 January 2020
The one thing that Hollywood is really good at is competition which you might find surprising since Hollywood is a far-arsed, monied town and you would think 'competing' wouldn't even enter into their vocabulary, (except, of course, during Awards Season), yet when Hollywood sets its mind to it and makes a film about competing, (think "Rocky", think "Aliens"), they are unbeatable. Their latest competitive movie is "Ford v Ferrari" and it's a contemporary classic in which every single piece fits perfectly into place just like the pieces of the classic cars on display. In this country it's called "Le Mans '66" so even if you didn't know it was about the car companies Ford and Ferrari you would still know what it's about and when it takes place.

Starting off with a superb screenplay from playwright Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller. terrific performances from the likes of Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas and Caitriona Balfe, brilliant editing, luminous photography all under the guiding hand of James Mangold this is a crowd-pleaser of the first magnitude and you don't even have to like cars to enjoy it, (though it helps). What you do have to like, however, is competing and who doesn't get an adrenelin rush from competing? It also helps if you like Christian Bale and Matt Damon. Bale's character may not be the most likeable bloke in the world but but this faultless actor is terrific in the role while Damon is fast becoming the go to actor of choice when it comes to playing craggy, steel-jawed heroes of a certain age, (surely his Oscar is just around the corner). The ending may be a tad predictable but the journey to it is one hell of a ride.
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8/10
One of Fellini's most enjoyable films.
25 January 2020
Fellini undoubtedly made better films but his solo debut, "The White Sheik", is still one of his most enjoyable, (he had already co-directed "Lights of Variety" with Alberto Lattuada, perhaps because he was poking fun at something he knew very well, show-business and play-acting for the camera, and for Fellini show-business was always fun. Even when he was at his most 'serious' he could never quite take life seriously. Performers were everywhere; even his prostitutes were performers of a kind and here, The White Sheik of the title, is as flamboyant a performer as ever graced a Fellini film.

He's played by Alberto Sordi as a broad, narcissistic bufoon but Fellini showers him with affection. He's his own hero though the film's hero is actually the stuffy little bureaucrat, (beautifully played by Leopoldo Trieste), who has come to Rome on his honeymoon and whose wife our White Sheik sets out to seduce but who emerges from her encounters dimmer than a fading light bulb and purer than the driven snow. Here is comedy both broad and satirical. Watch out, too, for Giulietta Masina as a little streetwalker named Cabiria. Fame, for Mrs. Fellini, was just around the corner.
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