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The Indian Fighter (1955)
The Indian Fighter - Mild False History
Being Kirk Douglas', Bryna Production Company's first commercial feature, it was a sign for what was to come. As good an all rounder as Mr Douglas was, he was given to a level of 'showing-off' and this movie was his first chance to demonstrate to what extent he liked to do just that. With so much talent, at many tasks, it's little wonder he was ever so willing to display examples of these gifts.
His character as the Indian Fighter is not exactly a good role model in any sense of the word - he forces his advances upon a young native Indian girl till she relents, then puts the lives of his charges in desperate peril to continue dalliances' with her - certainly a flawed character. While the writing credits are impressive this production amounts to little more than a rather typical 'B' Western of its day. If it could be seen to lift its gain to higher ideals it might be in treating the native Indians with more respect than so many others demonstrated. But, who do we get to play the Indian maiden? None other than Italian actress Elisa Martinelli - an Indian squaw with an Italian accent!! Might this have had something to do with the fact the already married Douglas, was involved in a torrid affair with his star...Hmm.
Best thing about the entire effort has to be the marvellous CinemaScope, Technicolor cinematography, courtesy of Wilfrid .H. Cline - accompanied by an agreeable score by Franz Waxman. Mr Douglas endangers himself by performing his own considerable horse riding and physical stunts - this often sent him running to the medical unit. This must have not only worried the insurers but forced up his policies considerably. Oh well when you're paying the bills, who cares? Kirk gave us numerous remarkable classics but was always better when working for other producer/directors who were able to reel him in when tempted to go over the top. For action addicts only.
The Window (1949)
The Window - Casts A Story Of Terror And Suspense
Writer Cornel Woolrich (Rear Window) set the pages of his book alight with fear with this taut little story of a boy being hunted by murderers. Screenwriter Mel Dinelli then sets the screen ablaze with his suspenseful adaptation of this near one-of-a-kind noir tale. From seeing it as a kid to revisiting it years latter it has held up very well indeed. Cameraman turned director Ted Tetzlaff and his cinematographer Robert De Grasse, bring such a classic shadowy style to this thriller it looks as if they had double its budget.
The impressive cast do wonders with their roles proving their worth for many films to follow but young Bobby Driscoll, well deserved his hard-earned special Oscar for a stand out performance, one he may never have gotten at Disney. Moody black and white lighting and eerie locations bring a special look and feel to this must see - late forties slice of life drama - highlighting the plight of those living among poverty in post war lower east side NY. Fast moving dramatic situations and slick award winning editing, lift this support film into 'A' grade territory.
Beats hands down many big budget CGI modern productions with its imaginative and hard working production team. Well received in its day but little known due to RKO's demise a few years later. The Warner Archive DVD release features crystal clear image and sound although some minor marks show up momentarily along the way. Good value for those who know how to enjoy classic movie making of the best kind.
X+Y (A Brilliant Young Mind) - Tells its Special Story With Great Care
This fine British film is a fictional/fact movie version of the documentary production 'Beautiful Young Minds' which was in turn about the real-life Math prodigy Daniel Lightwing. Asa Butterfield is perfect in the title role and has a strong cast of professional performers to compliment his performance. Prolific playwright James Graham's debut screenplay is exceptional in most every detail and carries the viewer through a rollercoaster ride of human emotions - as his youthful characters, etc, navigate unfamiliar human experiences.
Solid direction and stylish cinematography keep it all on track, with Martin Phipps' haunting music score nicely setting the moods for each scene. Sally Hawkins gives yet another of her introspective performance as Butterfield's widowed mother - with good support from Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) as Butterfield's somewhat tortured mentor. Superior entertainment for discerning viewers, with its DVD release big on transfer quality.
Politiki kouzina (2003)
A Touch Of Spice - A Taste Of Modern History
Striking production values lift this personal story of displaced family to well above the average. It takes a well measured look at the political/racial/religious intolerance between Turkey and Greece in post war Istanbul.
Wonderful cinematography, warm performances, a substantial and lushly orchestrated music score, wrapped up in superb production design, combine to ensure an absorbing study of inter-personal relationships. While also offering a unique insight into the philosophy at the heart of traditional cuisine and its special role in keeping families together.
With little doubt autobiographical, writer/director Tassos Boulmetis' fascinating movie is both humorously slightly over the top, and realistically heartfelt. His main characters fit neatly into a metaphoric representation of how politics totally changed the face of a country - altering people's lives and relationships forever . In 2003 and to this day, this film still holds the record for the largest number of admissions across the nation. Making it one of Greases' most successful movies, being only second behind ticket sales for the movie blockbuster, Titanic during its Greek release.
Recommended for discerning viewing and to those wanting an insight into the unfortunate history of these two countries.
Personal Velocity - Maybe Personal Indulgences
Rebecca Miller's second feature movie is just what you would expect to win awards at Sundance and similar festivals. Others can expect to sit through very roughly sketched plotlines - in this case, it's three rather shallow stories about women that don't particularly link up well or offer any satisfactory resolutions.
The photography by Ellen Kuras consists of some shaky (cheap and trendy) video handheld shots, mostly taken with the zoom lens on extreme tight --producing a nauseating wobble cam-- with the operator attempting to frame the subject within a rocky, sea-sick making image. The ugly, sensationalistic situations and course dialogue are mostly drawn from the perspective of disenfranchised immature females. Some of the title characters prefer to live out female fantasies with all takers (even when in successful relationships of their own making)...actions that predictably lead to utter chaos. All these women are quite unbelievably devoid of the ability to learn from any obvious life experiences or moral sensibilities.
It's difficult to fully sympathise with these somewhat sordid characters or feel all that much empathy for their all too obvious and inevitable outcomes. Performances are OK with Michael Rohatyn supplying a cute minimalist main theme. Rebecca's Dad, Arthur Miller, may have been a notable and worthy writer but that's clearly not always guaranteed to transfer to the offspring. As an example of the 'deep' and arty writing, consider this line read by the stories narrator: "She felt the ambition drain out of her like pus from a lanced boil"... Strictly for undemanding viewers or the 'types' we see introducing movies on Foxtel, etc. Others may give up within the first 15 mins and be better off for doing so.
Breakthrough - Strong on Outcomes
Prolific actor/director Roxann Dawson (Star Trek: Voyager) shows a good flair for being a first-class actor's director in this beautifully produced, performed, and photographed production. A strong cast brings what some might call a predictable story to vivid life. Any story based on factual and relatively inexplicable occurrences --based on a strong faith premise - can't help but feature a certain degree of predicable asides - for these are determined by the amazing factual outcomes at its core. There will always be doubters when it comes to incidents that involve supernatural intervention and this will vary with the degree of faith held by the viewer.
Thankfully, this production only features one or two scenes that perhaps begin to fall into the trap of over sentimentalising certain situations. But convincing performances and a generally powerful fact-based script lift it over and above any contrivances. What comes across perfectly, is the always difficult to achieve embodiment of repaired relationships - especially in this case, involving a damaged adopted family member.
Might be worth seeing by all in need of genuinely inspirational entertainment. Others, just stay away or go to a crowd pleasers comic-book action flick if you really want banality. Features Diane Warren's 2019 Academy Award-nominated song "I'm Standing With You" as performed by Chrissy Metz.
Charlie Says (2018)
Charlie Says.... Not Much Of Moral Value
Charlie Says... is not such a wise title to give a movie that might have been an intriguing expose on some unforgivable murders. It's also further hampered by the moviemakers spending too much time voyeuristically gloating over the unhealthy sexual indulgences of a bunch of feral hippies (with no mention of the STD's transmitted between this moronic bunch). This graphic porno approach would have had far more dramatic impact if handled less exploitatively.
The second half of this movie almost seemed to be made by a different team, less sensationalistic, and a little more worthy in its approach - though, still appearing somewhat emotionally manipulative. I agree that it's important to pursue redemptive rehabilitation on gaoled sociopaths. But don't believe that too many results warrant a release for perpetrators of hideously repugnant crimes against humanity (we've seen too many examples where this has gone badly wrong).
This revisitation of the abominable crimes of Charles Manson and his sick crew, tells us little about the lives of these people before becoming members of his free love hippy farm. It wasn't Manson's evil dominating power alone that turned them into killers. - they were free to leave at any time they chose but, they didn't, their own personalities, along with the drugs and perverse sex, also had a controlling hold.
Curiosity tends to keep one watching this entry but overall there's not a great deal to learn from the sad experience and, it could have been told with less sensationalized over-indulgence or the added implied PC gender inferences to tick another modern Hollywood box.
The Nightingale (2018)
The Nightingale - Gives Us The Rough End Of The Song and Sideways
Another Aussie movie that signals the limited mindset of its writer/director/producer within the first 10mins - it doesn't get much uglier than this tosh. Some movie makers appear to simply want to lay claim to making a new 'gross' movie, to out-gross the one that went before, that's not much of a claim to fame. Jenifer Kent's prior claim to fame came in the form of the horror entry "The Babadook "14 The Nightingale is set in early Tasmanian colonial history but its head is deeply lost in cheap horror. While sadly there have always been atrocities involved in settling new lands (the world over) this work tends to come across as the anti-white PC brigade --pushing a cheap 'them and us' mentality-solely for the sake of spreading increased hatred.
98% of all whites featured are deliberately shown to be as bad as bad can possibly get - so bad as to be simplistic caricatures, designed to manipulate the audience to want to see them killed in the most horrific manner possible, and of course, they are. The sensationalistic foul language is right out of today and equally overdone as the sordid voyeurism. For the industry to lord over writings such as this, is demeaning to the trade, and won't bring respect or many ticket sales from general audiences. The only following this picture is likely to garnish will be those who relish schlock horror and repugnant, vulgar brutality. When the bulk of performers are not over-acting it appears it might just work but this is very short-lived. The claustrophobic cinematography (shot to no advantage in small screen format!) seems to perhaps be attempting to hide the over cleared and developed landscape for its time.
Those who 'think' about what 'entertainment' they are being fed, will see so many ridiculous plot failings and under-developed situations that it's difficult to see who this nasty mess could benefit, and doesn't ever warrant a second look. It's time to move on and help overcome this eternal nurturing of hatred or tell it with a little more balance and intelligent respect for the viewer.
The Railway Children (1970)
The Railway Children - 1970 - The First Great Feature Version To Hit The Tracks
For many, this 1970 production is the definitive version of E. Nesbit's perennial classic family novel, it was also actor Lionel Jeffries first attempt at directing a feature film. Jeffries read and was captivated by the book, so secured the movie rights, wrote a screenplay, then sort producer Brian Forbes' agreement to finance the venture. So successful was the film both financially and critically, Jeffries often gave up being in front of camera and went on to direct several other wonderful features (the most sophisticated being "Baxter" '73 with Scott Jacoby, Patricia Neal and Britt Ekland). The cast of the Railway Children has been handpicked to perfection for both versions - with all players wearing their characters like a glove, Jenny Agutter who plays the eldest daughter came back 30 yrs later taking the role of the mother in the re-make.
There are special thoughts being spun both on screen and off within both productions - with settings for the 70s vers being a sheer joy. The Keighley and Worth Railway society supply the eye-popping steam locomotives and fully preserved heritage carriages. Watching these magnificent trains travelling through the lush areas of the West Yorkshire countryside and traversing the unique Oakworth station is a special treat. This multi-nominated movie offers something for almost everyone, drama, humour, suspense, with a worthy nod to the importance of committed, selfless behaviour, for both family and all our shared community relationships. It also features stand out photography by Arthur Ibbetson and a neat music score by composer Johnny Douglas.
Director Jeffries had a healthy respect for his cast and audience, and his end-credits were often given unique treatments. For this production, he assembles the entire cast to present the closing credits in a warm and personal style, right to the very last title card. Whenever you get a chance to see "The Railway Children" don't miss it. A high quality 40th Anniversary digital master was struck off to honour this timeless classic.
The Railway Children - A Sure Journey To Enjoyment
Regarding the often asked question; which version is the best...1970 or 2000? It's probably a balance of personal preference. Both versions have unique qualities, so maybe it's best to watch each a week or so apart. Perhaps there's something about the latter that keeps the story unfolding in a more natural fashion (less quirky) and the cast seem easier to accept as natural (again, personal interpretations). E. Nesbit's book leaves itself open to the makings of a great family movie classic - with many emotions based on her own life experiences (siblings and family members)
It's easy to find endearing qualities within each and every character, young or old, and the viewer can't help but wish for the best outcomes for all - even without any manipulation from the movie makers (and that's saying something) The striking locations and variety of gloriously preserved full steam trains (Bluebell Railway) are a joy to behold! You can't help but wish you were there. Photography, music, editing, all add up to superior entertainment for any age group - quite not to be missed and the 'studio' DVDs are very good.
The Missing (2003)
The Missing - Longish but Engrossing
Just took another look at this curiosity. The Missing is certainly a compelling and at times confronting watch, it's set in the South/West in a time and place where such evil practices took place and does not attempt to 'romanticise' it's realistic characters. Ron Howard's direction is accomplished, giving us both gruelling and challenging entertainment - filled with exciting authenticity and suspense - unfortunately, being a western, it was difficult to sell to the average movie-going public of its day. The story by Thomas Eidson has a committed authenticity for the pioneering days of the American West and Ken Kaufman's screenplay adaption keeps it bristling with tough situations and colourful characterisations.
One problem could be that somewhere, someone allowed it to go on a bit too long--even though it always remains watchable. There's a particularly exciting sequence that I can understand could end up being rather difficult for some to accept, this involves an ageing Tommy Lee Jones's character enduring considerable punishment at the hands of his enemies - then mustering up the energy to confront them with some demanding activities. Failing this, the story has enough elements and twists to intrigue and leave us wondering how the tense situations will play out in the finale.
The widescreen cinematography is impressive and there's a complex James Horner score to add interest. Performances are convincing, with Jones being perfect as the mysterious Indian outsider (or is he??) and for those who understand near-lost languages, there's authentic Native American dialogue being used to fine effect. It's quite an epic and more suited to lovers of historical character studies.
L'amant double (2017)
Double Lover - Triple Repulsion
Yet another shoddy French movie with perverse sex scenes strung together in the hope the audience won't notice the lack of writing or so-called story. If the easily (or perversely) pleased can find anything to like or respect about this low trash, then they can also be regarded as in the same class as this French dud. Another for SBS' growing stockpile of smutty foreign movies to add to their junk heap - that only they could justify putting to air.
The Little Prince (1974)
The Little Prince - A large Little Masterpiece
Anyone who even dared to think of making a film out of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic novel was going headlong into difficult territory. And when you bravely decide you're going to take the challenge, you need equally brave artists to risk the journey with you. Stanley Donen was in good company when he embarked on 'The Little Prince' with the distinguished team of Lerner and Loewe in 1973. It would be the last work of the famous writer composer team together. It was always going to be a hit or miss affair as its theme doesn't sit comfortably in a formal genre. For some, it's not quite adult enough while it's also too sophisticated for certain kids. In fact, this is a philosophical study of relationships and the difficulty of adults to maintain enough childish delight to sustain youthful exuberance into adulthood. This is profound stuff!
As for the music, it's up there with many of this team's great works but just a little differently so. Except for what some regard as a couple of forgettable songs there are more than enough soaring delights to please the team's followers. It was never possible or necessary, to write great songs for small sketches that were simply intended to link parts of the story - why some critics fail to understand this is telling of their nativity. While I may agree that some sections of this production don't come across entirely successfully - it was always going to be this way due to the unique situations being portrayed. This is no ordinary story or musical, and that should be part of its charm. Many profound thoughts are put forth and those with the sensitively and perceptiveness of heart and mind will benefit from seeing this one-of-a-kind classic work.
Richard Kiley is perfect as 'The Pilot' he is both strong and sensitive - with just the right voice to project the messages of each powerful song. When he and young Stephen Warner are desperately looking for water they share a duet that tells of the many moods of the parched land in "Sometimes The Desert" - together they give this glowing melody wonderful warmth. Bob Fosse as The Sssnake, offers up a powerful allegory representing the deceptive serpent in the garden, while Gene Wilder is totally beguiling as The Fox - both these segments are perfected by two more terrific songs. Sadly, even though it was nominated and won several major Awards The Little Prince failed to find the perfect audience but those who looked deeply inside its soul were the beneficiaries of a great cinematic wealth wrapped up in striking Christopher Challis photography.
Buy it on DVD and discover the magic for yourself.
Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)
Teenagers From Space - EEEK!
Look out! a long lost movie relic from the 50s has escaped again by virtue of falling into the ravine of the 'Public Domain'! Run, Flee, hide under the seat, lest you be drawn into its hypnotic clutches - but don't be surprised, if once you begin watching, you somehow recognise some reasonable ideas (you'll be forgiven all the same if you don't) If someone had offered this backyard moviemaker some real money (I mean several hundred thousand more) he just might have had a slight chance at pulling off something better than he ever came up with.
If you enjoy BAD movies this will 'delight' you! It's deliriously BAD! As mentioned, odd bits of the storyline offer a curiously different take on the average BAD - teen oriented 50s Drive-in-junk-movie but, the ULTRA low budget kills it stone dead. Once you see the GIANT Lobsters you'll be falling off the sofa rushing for the remotes kill button. To think that Warner Bros actually distributed this movie to picture houses is telling of their meteoric buffoonery! (and lack of respect for audiences) Why didn't they offer the hapless, wannabe, movie maker a small film crew and a meagre budget to help him attempt a better end product - it just might have worked.
See, the astounding flying trash can the "invaders" arrive in
See , all those now long lost, stunning 50s sets!
See, the amazing gravity deifying ultra mod space attire!
See, the death dealing, flesh evaporating, catastrophic ray-gun from another time and cosmic realm!
See, what a man from outer spaces' beard looks like, incredible
See, the power killing effect on your screen as you tread on the remote while you run screaming from the room!
See, your friends' faces as you tell them of your viewing experiences! You'll have to SEE this, to believe it!
If you care to do some serious research into this one-off movie maker you'll find he met a bad end.
Force of Evil (1948)
Force of Evil - Is Powerful On Quality (re-watched review)
On a subsequent viewing its clear they don't get much better than this, Force of Evil comes complete with all the ingredients of a first-class noir thriller. Powerful dialogue, direction, performances, cinematography, music score and stylish lighting, combine to deliver a thought-provoking morality tale of corporate greed - bringing down those foolish enough to play for the big stakes, against better judgment.
This is a game you play at your own expense or in this case, the expense of those you love. Ira Wolfert adapts his own novel "Tucker's People" into a screenplay, along with director Abraham Polonsky. Together they come up with a bristling, soul-searching story of corruption and greed that will tear apart brother from brother and affect all who come in contact with the get-rich-quick scheme attracting undesirables from all walks of life.
Thomas Gomez excels as the self-sacrificing older brother and small-time numbers man, trying to give a little decent employment to some local misfits. Stage actress Beatrice Pearson, in her first of only two features (Lost Boundaries '49) turns in an impressive character performance as the innocent girl caught up between the conflicting ideals of both brothers. Garfield's Enterprise Company gave this film to MGM to distribute but it's somewhat doubtful MGM may have done the right thing - it's unclear who re-edited the film (or why) and unfortunately seems the edits were never archived. Even as is, it's not to be missed as a great example of dramatic, cinematic art - with an ending that leaves a strong impression. This little picture makes many bigger pictures look small.
Both performer and director would be hunted out of Hollywood by the HUAA just a few years later. Forget the Marxist rants some attribute to this picture; this is a multi-layered morality play of crime, greed and brother against brother. It's quite unforgettable of its time.
The Olive DVD release features very good image and a better quality sound track than the earlier Republic release, well worth buying.
The Education of Little Tree (1997)
The Education Of Little Tree - Not All It Seems
While there's much to admire within this very good looking and thoughtful production, a closer look at its origins undoes much of its good work. At first impression, it comes across as a true biography (as the author claimed it to be) but it is a fabrication. Taken as fiction its fine but let's not allow ourselves to glorify blatant lies.
Its first undoing is being based on a fictional book written by compulsive liar Forrest Carter, he claimed to be the orphan of Cherokee parents but this was proven to be a just another of his many lies. Carter was an ex Ku Klux Clan leader who indulged in many violent incidents. He was also a speechwriter for Democratic presidential contender, Governor George Wallace, at the time both men were confirmed racists, and shameless segregationalists.
While the writer might have been attempting to atone for many past sins (and that's admirable) it casts a very bad light on this productions handling of the fake elements of the overall story. Secondly; the appalling stereotypical way the whites are depicted is far too obviously a set-up, a contrivance - all are either nasty, hypocritical, bigoted buffoons or overly obvious white trash.
Thirdly; Little Trees 'Education' while with his Grandparents mostly consisted of running an illegal Whisky Still - there's many lost opportunities here for other higher learning. Screenplay writer/director Richard Friedenberg, along with co-writer Earle Hamner Jr (The Walton's TV series) may have ignored several important factual elements with this project.
There's much to atone for with the genocide of the American Natives and some of what's depicted here is heart-wrenchingly true but to present this story, dressed as if in its original claim of fact - from the pen of a dishonest author, is not the best way to earn any viewer respect. What should have been a superb historical statement ends up as an emotionally manipulative, fictional endeavour.
Visually lush, with some strong performances to match (it's always good to see Graham Green on screen, although he seems to walk through this one like he knows it a sham) 'Little Tree' certainly engages the viewer's emotions but could have been so much better if given a more honest treatment. Members of the Cherokee nation have openly denounced the so-called Cherokee teachings in Little Tree as inaccurate. The strikingly beautiful locations and photography, combined with Mark Isham's music, are valuable assets but it tends to be about 10 -15mins too long at nearly 2 hrs.
Good looking but sadly based on highly suspect material.
The Bookshop (2017)
The Bookshop- An Unusual Entry
Penelope Fitzgerald's novel gets a warm lyrical transfer to the screen in Isabel Coixet's movie treatment. This somewhat gentle story of a widow (thoughtful performance from Emily Mortimer) moving to an English coastal town in the late 50 s - intent on opening a bookstore while facing heavy resistance from certain locals. It's always beautiful to look at, with many poetic landscape shots linking the flow of sequences, with a nice music score adding atmosphere.
Slight but marvellous performances from Bill Nighy as a somewhat mysterious book reading recluse and young Honor Kheafsey as her after-school assistant make this fine viewing for discerning viewers. At times it felt as if something was missing, that it was more like a TV episode but that also has something to do with the nature of the story, and the people who make up its subject. While it won't please everyone (what does?) it manages to leave some warm feelings in a cold sort of way, and even that's different.
It's always surprising (and pleasing) to find movies of this genre trickling through all the hyper CG action blockbusters and seedy youth fodder, actually managing to make a profit. People still want mind-engagement with soul in their entertainment. Recommended for an easy thoughtful watch.
Great use of Ray Bradbury stories/books to mark the time and Lolita featured prominently to announce the coming of the 'controversial' era, for better or worse, depending on your bent.
Juliet, Naked (2018)
Juliet Naked - Nearly There
Sure are a lot of mixed reactions to this movie, it's an odd mixture of romantic comedy and failed relationships set in the 60s. It's as sad as it's funny and hardly as family-friendly as some would have us think. The script is peppered with a non-stop barrage of needless four letter words - while this doesn't seem to bother some modern audiences, it still limits the movie's audience in some situations. Maybe certain writers have forgotten the adage; "Discretion of speech is more than eloquence" (words still matter) - why limit your audience capacity for the simple sake of being trendy? Not everyone talks like hip-hop-rap artists or Hollywood production types and, it was less prevalent in the 60s.
The script is also very much in the PC gender style of 'let's include everyone' - designed to represent just about all 'types' - its long been established that attempting to please everyone is perhaps a sure formula for failure - but that's now the new 'normal' for better or worse in 'entertainment' terms.
Largely, the whole show is carried by the easy to like personality of Rose Byrne (sporting a fine 'English' accent) though she does get able support from her international co-stars. The youths are equally impressive especially young Azhy Robertson giving a warm, natural performance as Jackson. The soundtrack features many pop songs from the 60s, and up, to accompany certain linking scenes and while this device has also become a cliché, the selections are used to the best advantage in this case. Nice English locations keep it easy on the eye.
Certainly won't suit everyone but has a few relatable human failings to keep it afloat and above average of its type. Pity about all the F...s .along the way.
Destroyer - Snuffs Itself Out Very Early
Unless you enjoy being spat at, verbally abused and treated like a second rate viewer this could be a good movie to stay away from. TV director Karyn Kusama, her writer hubby Phil Hay, along with his co-writer Matt Manfredi look like being names to consider adding to a must avoid list. With a sludge fund of impossible to like characters - who continue to become more detestable as the minuets tick by (and there are 2 long Hrs worth that go very slowly). You will be forgiven if you walk (no, run) out on this grot-fest of undesirable situations and characters (my audience was gone within the first 25mins). I, being a glutton for punishment had to stay to see just how much worse it could get --struggled to the bitter end-- did it get better? Sadly not.
It's another of those simple stories that's been given an unnecessary flash-back flash-forward edit job - in an attempt to make you think its deep and meaningful, it isn't. Nichole Kidman is heading down the road to self ruin by taking any script that's thrown at her - leaving any followers left to think twice, before any longer bothering to follow her career. It's as if she mistakenly feels, as these cheap writers do, that you have to keep going lower down the moral scale to be noticed. Well, from the look of the lowering audience attendances this just ain't necessarily so! The artsy pretensions did not help whatsoever, just made it look all the more contrived. Waste of an otherwise interesting music score and just about everything else.
Submergence - Interesting but Almost Sinks Itself
While I thoroughly enjoyed Wim Wenders' "Paris Texas" I was also disappointed to learn that it was written on the fly. Maybe a similar approach might have been taken for this strange and at times strained production. At one stage, it looked as if the moviemakers may have been wanting to create the equivalent of a modern remake of classics like "Peter Ibbotson" or "Wuthering Heights"- about deep bonding - a love of such depth that even during cruel and certain severance, the lovers could connect with each other in a fantasy or spiritual world. Maybe these lovers didn't have enough time together to convince us they were now inseparable. There are times and situations where love can develop quicker than normal but, it also needs more time to be convincing as eternally enduring.
There also seemed to be too much mystery surrounding James McAvoy's character to help us fully understand the extreme treatment at the hands of his Jihadist captors - still, it was refreshing to note his dedication to his faith, and his home country - quite a rarity in modern Hollywood type movies. There's lots of visual style, very good performances, an interesting music score, and it is more accessible than some of Wenders' other works but overall, something seems to be missing. Have certainly seen far worse, but maybe needed stronger plot development.
Serenity - Don't Look for any Here
No-one involved with this movie can expect to get away without explaining their true motives. Whatever the creators were thinking will only seem clear to those who think because something is 'different' it must be good - while sometimes this can be so, it's not in this case. Here is an example of trying too hard to be 'different' and ending up simplistically off-the-wall, but not in a good way.
Writer Stephen Knight won the day with 'Amazing Grace' 06, and seemed to perhaps be thinking he can blend some of the grand philosophy that graced that film into this concoction. Problem here is, the grotesque characters and situations are manipulatively designed to be so overly nasty as to make the viewer want to see the 'baddy' violently done in. That is never a good way to set up a convincing story but is very much a popular computer games scenario.
This swear, booze and sex-fest wears thin very early on with its obvious attempts at outlandish 'smart' pretence - it may have been halfway interesting if they had played it straight as it appeared to be at the outset. Initially looking much like a remake of the Hemmingway/Garfield 50s noir classic "The Breaking Point' - it soon veers off-course into the now predictable land of Computer Game 'magic'. It's also unbecoming for mixing perverse situations involving an abused minor into a rather lame fantasy element. Some audiences will only see the supposed 'cleverness', while others will see straight through it! (as the box-office returns tend to confirm)
Matthew McConaughey can be impressive (Free State of Jones '16) but also sometimes over the top (as here). Previously, he has also verbally praised God for his career, if he thinks God will look favourably on this mess, he needs to think again. The talented Diane Lane is sadly, totally wasted as his casual town 'play' piece.
Cold-hearted ugly nonsense.
The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)
The Girl in the Spiders Web - Looks like the Spider Wrapted-Up the Moviemakers
More grotesque moviemaking that resembles yet another computer game. Never-ending foolish situations that seem to lean more and more to the morally bankrupt. It becomes quite impossible to follow the outlandishly ridiculous story or to like any of the grimy characters. Stylish production design gets wasted along with a good Clair Foy performance (won't help this girl's career) What kind of audiences are the producers aiming for?
It's doubtful the attention spans of a great many young people will be captured for too long, and more mature viewers will find it just so over-the-top as to not care beyond a few scenes. Time to look for better material.
All Is True (2018)
All Is True - But Not Necessarily Too Much Of This
It's curious that we have a movie about William Shakespeare bearing a name like All Is True when the largest portion of it may well not be. But of course, how could any of this be known when it all took place so very long ago and, so little survives or had been recorded about the famous Bard. Writer Ben Elton has donned both his creative hats for this concoction - that of total fictional fabrication and 'what we think to know' presumptions.
Director/actor Kenneth Branagh while wanting to accurately transcribe the times may have forgotten that it's also important to entertain his audience and allow them to enjoy the visual treats of sets, costumes, and creating a mood via creative lighting. His sets are so gloomily lit there's a tenancy to lull the viewer to sleep. A particularly slow pace could even leave some reaching for the 2 x times remote. This need not have been - broad subjects such as this, set in dark times, under other great lighting/cameramen have allowed us to be transported back to bygone candle/gaslight days by using deep blacks and well-lit subjects that allowed viewers to feel the era and enjoy the rich moods simultaneously. For an artificial interpretation of reality, a thinking audience will forgive any production that considers their visual appreciation over sombre moods.
Modern liberties seem to have been catered for by suggesting that Will's Sonnets may have been written for another bloke - in this case the Earle of Southampton. Not sure where Elton came up with this suggestion as there doesn't appear all that much documentation to build on that assumption. We learn that Mr Shakespeare did not attend University, somewhat proving that a University degree can't always account for intelligence, and that his wife Anne was illiterate. There are other family intrigues to offer personal interest but what promised to be an enlightening experience comes across as a tad too heavy-handed and at times inaccessible.
Performances are good but still remains for dedicated Shakespeare followers only, and some won't even last the distance - it's not that its overlong, just takes it's time telling its (largely fabricated) story.
Alpha - A Rough Prehistoric Journey Produced Smoothly
Alpha is perhaps an odd departure for movie maker Albert Hughes, it also proved to be a good move financially. While it sports a familiar story line and unnecessarily stretches the boundaries of believability - it just looks so visually striking you can't help getting involved with its protagonists struggle to survive.
All performances are first class (including the Wolf) and the main characters persona is likeable, there's a fine ethereal music score but, it's the production design and sweeping vistas that are the real star. The decision to let the viewer imagine much of the off-screen violence helped, that said, with so much CGI used why the need to kill 5 real animals!? Something wrong here moviemakers!
Galveston - You May Not Want To Go There
Everyone in this grotty movie is unlikeable, and it remains that way right up till the last few minutes, where we get a shock to be introduced to a soul to actually feel for. Bleak can be good in screen drama but when there is little or no relief, it can drain viewer interest. It's likely to have some wanting to leave these somewhat moronic characters to those who enjoy putting up with grungy situations - filled with characters driven by self-absorption and violence.
Much of the slowly paced action is played out in semi-darkness making it all feel twice as long. This is new age story-telling that's likely to leave many viewers wanting more clarity to make investing an hour and a half worthwhile. An atmospheric score eventually goes nowhere and the dismal story of a hit-man on the run soon wears thin. Performances are OK, but mostly wasted as there's little to hang them on - and, an overly 'arty' ending doesn't help.
As for finding enjoyment, some will, but I fear many more won't.