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The Favourite (2018)
Maybe " Carry on Rubbing" would have been a better title for this unsubtle, unfunny romp. So much could have been made of this interesting period of British history and the political shenanigans of the court, maybe the film could have highlighted the subtle power of women behind the scenes in the corridors of power?
No! What we get is a petulant, childish queen and two women more interested in scoring points off each other than affecting the course of history.
Other reviewers have seen influences of other film-makers, I got a whiff of Ken Russell.
Photography and settings were impressive. Dialogue was often delightful but frequently crass. All the principals were top-notch and the supporting cast were satisfactory, in fact, all the elements of the film were well constructed, it's just that they didn't come together well.
The Midnight Sun (1926)
Not a review
Again, not a review, but, when this film was shown at the Imperial, Walsall, Staffordshire, England in October 1926 it was shown "complete and without any drastic cuts as made in Birmingham", and had scenes in natural colouring, produced by an entirely new process which caused no flicker or strain to the eyes. As we all know, colour processes at this time were not always successful or even popular with audiences, so it is possible that a colour-free version was also available. The Imperial was a cinema constantly seeking ways to attract patrons who might otherwise go to its newer, more classy neighbour, The Picture House. The film was described as "stupendous" and a vocalist from a London theatre was employed to accompany it for some reason not explained.
Dior et moi (2014)
Where would we be without such people?
This is a very entertaining film in its own right, but that which I enjoyed about it most, as a common working guy, with no artistic pretensions worth speaking of, is the way in which the various key characters featured have all managed to convince themselves that what they do is essential to some great endeavour! Well, mes amis, you are only fancy-dan dressmakers, and if you gave up and went on to a different job, you would soon be replaced! The school jumpers my Ma used to knit for me were as valuable as what you do- pity no-one ever had a 350,000 euro account with her! But, as I said, a very entertaining film, and these are not the only people who think highly of themselves - film critics fall into the same trap (not that I am one). General Yen
The Sailor's Wedding (1905)
A stirring picture from American Biograph.
From the Walsall Advertiser 211/11/1905"The Sailor's Wedding", the lifeboat episode being specially fine and the depiction of the sea so near to reality, that one who sat near the writer said he fancied he could smell the sea-water".Another early picture, probably now lost, which can only be judged at second hand by reading the reviews given at the time, which were often written by the exhibitors, therefore, not without self interest.This was shown as part of a variety show as were many other films at this time. It would be twenty eight years before this theatre (Her Majesty's) would become a full-time time cinema.Shortly after it was demolished and replaced by a modern super cinema.
And the Children Pay (1918)
....but are they allowed to watch???
Sorry, not a review as such, as I've not seen the film, but our local paper of the time when this was shown at the Imperial Hall, Walsall, U.K. describes it as a "free and frank lesson in the dangers of not giving young people sex education--NOT AT ALL OBJECTIONABLE TO COMMON-SENSE PEOPLE!" (their caps). I suspect that the film might have been more titillating than educational, as the exhibitor clearly tries to imply that only those lacking in "common-sense" would find anything wrong in the film, in an era when the local watch committee had power of censorship. It is not clear if any age limit was applied to admissions. Maybe it was a film in the style of "Helga" (see my reviews). General Yen.
The Prisoner of Zenda (1922)
A tale of Hope with little charm.
As with "Scaramouche", I found this film rather stodgy, with a lacklustre score. Lewis Stone is too old in his dual role and Alice Terry lacked any real charm. This picture belongs to its supporting cast- Barbara LaMarr ("too beautiful for her own good") as Antoinette de Mauban, Colonel Zapt, Captain von Tarlenheim and,of course, Rupert of Hentzau, played with relish and humour by Ramon Novarro. I think I prefer him in this role to any other I have seen him portray; perhaps his popularity with the female audience meant he became stuck in the part of gentle romancer (long after he had become too mature for this) rather than developing his abilities as an actor.
Jew Süss (1934)
Watch this film and watch it again.
My copy of Jew Suss is exceptionally bad, being an ageing VHS recording with poor image and sound but nevertheless this is a film worth repeated viewing. I wonder which other countries in the 1930s would have had the confidence to film such a controversial story. Jew Suss, on the surface, is a call to oppose the growth of anti-semitism but the hero of the film is no likable chap, he is a ruthless exploiter, a womaniser, a procurer of women-and a father and a son with a tender side to his nature. He despises his master, the Duke and as much as Suss is in the Duke's power, so is the opposite the case. The only person Suss fears is the Rabbi Gabriel who one can call, perhaps,his conscience or at least the one means whereby Suss is kept connected to the reality of the world in which he lives. It is Gabriel who reminds Suss to visit his mother and his child and it is during these visits that we see his tenderness. Apart from anything else, though, the key to the character of Suss is that, good or bad, he is true to himself and his principles and it is this which finally brings about his downfall. He would only have to declare himself a Christian (and in the book this is what his cousin has already done) for all to be forgiven but he will not do it, even though a rather dubious plot device would make this the obvious thing to do. I find without exception that all performances in this film are excellent.
Pirates in an adventure they alone will really enjoy.
I took three grandchildren, ages 4, 8 and 10 to see this film and I must say that none of us were that impressed. The youngest got very fidgety and the other two thought it was just O.K. The trouble is, that if you don't have the right level of awareness, a lot of the subtleties of the plot will just pass you by: there is word play which will not work with little kids, there are anachronisms which they will not understand and in the case of two of my lads, the joke about the "surprisingly curvaceous pirate" didn't work because they saw what was going on and couldn't figure why everyone in the film didn't (well, there's kids for you!) Anyway, I wouldn't recommend this as a film to take the weans to: mine were well-behaved compared to some, but it can be enjoyed by anyone with sufficient perspicacity, especially those who have been exposed to the delights of Molesworth and his pals. Don't go to see it if you are basing your decision on Aardman's previous output. It is too self aware and lacks the wise innocence of that.
New York Nights (1929)
Norma Talmadge is no Lena Lamont.
It is difficult for me to mark this picture as the copy I have is of very poor quality in visual and sound. I have seen Norma Talmadge in "DuBarry" and on the evidence of these two films, it certainly was not her voice that ended her career. I think it was simply a matter of her increasing age and weight. Apparently she was 34/35, but at times looks more like 50 and there is clearly a thickening of the neckline and Queen Mothering of the upper arms. A previous reviewer has mentioned the arrival of a new set of younger faces at this time (Joan Blondell and Jean Harlow, for instance),but ironically, only a couple of years after Talmadge's retirement, the big new star was a forty year old, overweight woman with just the type of accent which was supposed to have ended Norma's career, namely, Mae West. The young Gilbert Roland has very much the appearance of his namesake, John Gilbert and the same Latin charm as his friend and fellow Mexican, Ramon Novarro. As is to be expected, the film is tied down by the static microphone, but not as obviously as, say, "Lights of New York". Sadly, my copy is shorn of several minutes; there is one complete song and some musical snippets in the party scene but no sign of Al Jolson in a cameo role.From what I see, however, the film had potential which, somehow, just didn't come to fruition. Returning to the matter of "Lights of New York", not only do these films share a similar title, but even the endings are not a million miles from each other!
The Woman in Black (2012)
Get a shave, Potter, you remind me of your mother!
I am assuming that the majority of you reading this are below the age of forty; if I am right, then I want you to tell your parents and grandparents to go and see this film and be prepared to be scared in a proper way, not just startled, but really unnerved in the way that you were by "Dead of Night" in 1945 and by "The Haunting" in 1963. This is my type of horror movie: no blood and snot shocker, just a well-paced thriller based on the conventions of such films, i.e. DO go upstairs when you hear creepy noises, DO go into the dark room where you know something terrible is waiting and DO NOT lock doors to keep the bad thing out (or else, lock ALL doors through which you may need to escape yourself). I had never realised how creepy musical boxes are; I now realise that clowns are far scarier than I had realised and folks who live in remote villages definitely are not good for visitors. If you changed the location of the film to Transylvania, this would be the absolute epitome of the Hammer films I paid my two bob to see in my teen years (half-a-crown in the balcony),from the suspicious locals to the sets so well built that they look like real locations. As for young Harry Potter as Arthur Kipps, I found him quite stiff and lacking in variety of emotional expression, but I hope he soon finds a role which will give him a chance to show a wider range. I only hope he has a shave next time.By the way, I have never watched a Harry Potter film, so Daniel Radcliffe came to me as a pretty unknown quantity.
The Trail of '98 (1928)
I found gold when I found you!
This is one of my favourite films of the late silent era.It has a mixture of drama, suspense,action and comedy to satisfy most tastes. The comedy is provided by Karl Dane, as a Scandinavian saphead who falls for about every con that comes his way. The hero and heroine suit each other well. The villain is about as bad as you could want and the fight scene with the hero is one of the most realistic I have ever seen.There are some pretty good special effects and some strong supporting characters. The way in which people come to accept the fate of their companions tells us how harsh conditions must have been and how hard those prospectors had to become to survive. Add to this a theme song, background music and sound effects....what more could you ask for?
The Artist (2011)
Silent pictures? They deserve better than this.
I won't mince words here: for me this was a desperately disappointing film. I am a passionate fan of the movies, especially the silents, of which I have seen more than a hundred, ranging from the excellent to the almost unwatchable and I must say that "The Artist" does not come up to my expectations. I shall be very surprised if it wins any major awards. It is not a silent film, it is not even a silent film with recorded musical score and occasional sound effects like, say "Sunset" or "The Trail of '98", it is more like a talkie with the dialogue track muted. The musical score is completely wrong as it sounds to me a couple of decades later than the period of the film. There is too much lip movement and there are too few titles: silent movie lovers will know that by the end of the silent era, titles were used sparingly and the unheard dialogue was short and to the point. Add to this the fact that the lead characters were not particularly likable and the film was too long. I was expecting a tribute to the art form I love and ended up watching a spoof! I much prefer "Singin' in the Rain"-at least it is an honest spoof.
Walking Back (1928)
He boozes, steals a car, wrecks it, drives a getaway car.... he's the salt of the earth.
1928-AND HOW!What a way to open a picture! Then a montage of Charleston dancers and speakeasies with a glimpse of the war which preceded this frivolous age. A sequence with over crowded cars racing until one if them is sent off the road by a blowout caused by an empty booze bottle thrown from the other, the stealing of a farm truck, then a visit to a speakeasy which ends with the humiliation of a cop set the scene for this youth orientated movie. Are the kids godless or graceless, lawless or reckless? the titles ask. Well,if you ask me, the are just the same as young people always have been since time began--just havin'fun. This said, I think it a bit much that Smoke, the hero, after stealing his neighbour's car, wrecking it, then getting involved in a bank robbery in which his dad is shot, not only gets off scott-free, but is also given an 8000 dollar reward! And to cap it all,his dad calls him the salt of the earth!! Nice to see George Stone (Otero in "Little Caesar") as the gangster leaders oppo. With its snappy 20's slang and some stunning driving sequences, this is a great snapshot of life in 1928. I especially liked the point where the father twits the boy with his lack of respect for authority, only to have the maid announce the arrival of the dad's bootlegger! I would like to know what type of car the gangster drove. A very watchable picture, the 1928 equivalent of all those films where the kids prove that they aren't just useless flibbertigibbets.
Outside the Law (1920)
Two Chaney's for the price of one.
No need to go into the plot of this movie. I will just comment of the realism of the fight scenes, clever cutting allows both Chaney roles to be seen in rapid succession; the opportunity, as in "Ace of Hearts" to get a glimpse of 1920 fashions, decor and motor vehicles. It was interesting to see a wall-mounted light switch, as opposed to a pull-string on the lamp. Scenes in Wong Low's store also feature a ceiling; previously I had been led to believe that this was not done until, I think "The Magnificent Ambersons" (Orson Welles). Finally, it struck me that the actor, Wheeler Oakman, occasionally bore a resemblance to James Cagney both in his looks and mannerisms.Oakman had been in films since 1912, when Cagney was 13 years old.
Nomads of the North (1920)
"...and lets hear it for Brimstone and Neewa!"
This is one of those films made before Chaney became a great star and is, sadly, just another potboiler. Chaney himself overacts wildly and you might be forgiven for thinking this movie was made ten years earlier. Betty Blythe is no more than homely.Lewis Stone acts with dignity and is understated throughout, though scenes of him looking for Chaney are too obviously posed, a little like the much mocked "catalogue" pose. Greatest credit goes to Brimstone and Neewa who consistently maintain their standards throughout the film. There is a rather feeble use of miniatures in the storm at night scene, but the great forest fire is obviously genuine and there are some wonderful shots of the northern landscape which, on my copy, are backed by a fairly suitable classical track-it may be Tchaikovsky, but I'm not certain.
The Ace of Hearts (1921)
The Phantom revolutionary finds love, but no Joy.
Suddenly, we find ourselves watching a meeting of a secret brotherhood of assassins who decide who has lived too long and then go ahead and kill him. There is no explanation of the background to the brotherhood and no detail as to what the man they intend to kill has done to make him fit only for death, but from a well placed headline part way through the tale, we realise that the action takes place during the great "red scare" of the post Russian revolution days. Leatrice Joy, later seen in "Manslaughter" is not at all like the sex symbol we usually see her as: possibly the heavy Edwardian fashions of long skirts and masses of hair are not flattering but overall the film shows us an accurate picture of the pre-jazz age era. Chaney once again plays the loser in a love triangle. Apart from longish hair, his make up is straight, but his acting is not: the style, here, of his mannerisms, gestures and facial expressions are more Phantom of the Opera than this story calls for. Chaney is capable of greater subtlety. Sadly, my copy, though visually good, has a terrible score. I accept that we should be thankful that such early films have survived at all, but if a decent musical accompaniment cannot be provided, then please don't bother! In this case I just turned the sound off! "The Ace of Hearts" was shown at the Imperial Hall, Walsall in the week after they showed "Heart of a Wolf", which demonstrates the popularity of Chaney's films. In short, a curious and interesting film.
The Trap (1922)
Time has not been kind.
My copy of this film is very poor and the score is rubbish-a tweety fairground organ playing chirpy music on a loop! Chaney's character, Gaspard, goes from being good to bad too easily but the process whereby he learns to love the son of his nemesis is tenderly done. When his fiendish plan to destroy his enemy puts the lad in danger, Gaspard sees the error of his ways and becomes good again. When this movie was shown at the Imperial Hall, Walsall, in 1923, the reviewer had high praise for it, so maybe a better copy with a better score would elicit a better review from me, but for now, this is one of the worst Chaney films I have seen to date.
The Ides of March (2011)
Not too much volume, please, I'm elderly
Thank goodness, it's the Ides of March ! I say that because this is a kind of film which I like: a slow burner which leaves you satisfied, yet knowing that the story doesn't end there. Ryan Gosling's character may start out as an idealist, but he soon learns how the real world works and embraces it with both arms till, in the end, in terms of ruthlessness and cold-eyed ambition, he out-Caesars Caesar! But, young man, beware! He who rides the tiger....! Respice post te, memento te hominem! or whatever; anyway, what I mean to say is that this film cries out for a follow-up which tells the further exploits of Stephen Meyers. I hope he goes on from strength to strength, then brings the whole rotten world of politics crashing down like a pack of cards and comes out smelling of roses! And, to top it all, they manage to tell the story in a quiet, measured tone.
The Shock (1923)
Amor vincit omnia
This film has a strong story and the 1906 San Francisco quake is well re created, mainly in miniature. The difficulty for me, as with several other Chaney films is that deformity and disability seem to be associated with criminality, though,of course, for many years this was deemed to be the case, just as disfigurement was assumed to lead to mental instability. Even though the story tells us that Wilse Dilling is capable of doing good, it makes it clear that this is against the normal run of his character. When the heroine is temporarily disabled by an accident, the other characters react as if this is a fate worse than death. Finally, Dilling's reward for his good deeds is to regain the use of his own crippled legs, thus making him worthy of the heroine and letting the audience know that all their physical shortcomings can be overcome, if only they really want it! It is interesting to note how film-makers of this period went for historical accuracy in terms of costume and scenery whereas in later years, glamour was seen as more important-compare the seedy shabbiness of "The Shock" with the elegance and brightness of "San Francisco"
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Thrills, laughs and excitement.
I took my four grandsons-ages 4,7 9 and 12.This film satisfied all of us (I am 60) in every aspect. I have not seen this type of animation before and found it charming. The story was strong and had all the elements I recall from the cartoons I saw on TV years ago. As ever with Spielberg, though, I found the fight sequences over long and repetitious. It was interesting for me to see the introduction of the Haggardian theme of the inescapability of fate into a light entertainment film. To be honest, though, I didn't hold much hope for the film to begin with, as the opening credits and music held no promise of the thrills to come. My final word comes from my 7 year old grandson--" The best film I have seen this year. I am looking forward to Tintin 2".
Oliver Twist (1922)
Oliver for beginners.
If you just want an impression of the Dicken's classic without going to the trouble of reading it, this is the film for you. Most of the elements of the novel are there but without any depth of characterisation-a sort of "Oliver Light", but to my mind, this did no harm. The film is very easy to watch and anyone not familiar with the original will not be conscious of anything missing. The cast all do a good job, though Siegmann could have made Bill Sikes more of a thug. My copy has music provided by a small fairground organ playing on a loop, which becomes annoying after a while and the murder of Nancy is missing, but, nonetheless, a good watchable film.
Is it just me, or is this not really the greatest film ever made?
It seems pointless adding another review to the long list already available, but, having spent three hours watching "Intolerance" in ,probably, the best version available, here I go. My copy is the Thames Silents version, with music by Carl Davis. Of course, this movie cannot be ignored, as its impact as an exercise in film making is still felt today, but its flaws are many and it is a demonstration of what can go wrong as much as what works. Long epic films are more prone to uneven moments than your average feature, purely because they are so long, but sometimes I wonder If Griffith let the concept overwhelm him, leading to such directorial slips as inserting close-ups into the narrative which seemed to have been posed and shot separately from the day's shooting, rather in the manner of the publicity stills which used to tempt us into the cinema in days gone by. His fondness for inserting spurious historical facts into the intertitles is distracting, but, to be fair, this is no different from any other director of epics - note the famous clerihew: Cecil B.DeMille/Much against his will/ Was persuaded not to put Moses/ Into the war of the Roses! In fact, historical accuracy is rarely seen as a sine qua non of historical films. The key thing about the film is that it set the standard which film makers have had to strive for ever since and by watching it they can learn where to cut a little, where to retain. Incidentally, my original draft for this review ran to four pages of foolscap, but I have learned that more is not always better.
Jane Eyre (2011)
Top marks all round and a bonus point for--------
This is the third version of the Bronte novel which I have seen, the others being a TV serialisation and the other the Orson Welles version. I enjoyed the former and the less said about the latter the better! This,for me, is far and away the best.The photography is top-notch and, as an avid lover of silent movies the preference for the visual over the oral puts this film high up on my favourites list. Top marks to all cast members and a bonus point for the divine Judi Dench (I have been a fan of hers since seeing her at Stratford in about 1970). To fit the whole novel into a two hour format is no mean feat, but here it is done so well that those who have read the original can supply the missing sections from their memory, while there is enough left in for the non-initiate to enjoy the tale as it stands.
Scaramouche--handsome, but stodgy.
My TCM print has excellent picture quality, but the score is not up to scratch; it mainly fails to bring out the action of the film or direct the viewers reaction to what is on the screen; occasionally it succeeds, but overall is not very inspiring-- which describes the whole film, really. They may be historically accurate, but the costumes are dull,Alice Terry is no great beauty and Novarro, in his first major role, looks stodgy and not yet in possession of the looks which later led him to be described as "more beautiful than any man has the right to be!" Lewis Stone plays an arrogant but truly noble aristo who finally sacrifices himself for the benefit of those he loves. The mob scenes, where aristocrats are assaulted by the furious revolutionaries give a real sense of how frightening the experience must have been, but, as usual, no mention is made of the fact that, under "The Terror" , more common folks were guillotined than nobles. The film picks up pace in the second half, but I suspect that those familiar with the Sabatini novel will enjoy it more.
The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)
A watery end, but not a wash out.
Previous reviewers have covered the plot of this film, so i will limit myself to saying that it left me a little disappointed. I did not find the effects particularly impressive, especially when compared to "Noah's Ark". What I liked better were the scenes when the towns men are preparing to go on the rampage if their pay doesn't arrive; Barbara is particularly vulnerable when one of the bad guys takes a shine to her, however, all turns out well in the end. Having read oldblackandwhite's comments about how close we can get to experiencing these movies as a silent era audience would, I suspect that this will never be truly possible, as modern audiences simply don't have the life experiences of our predecessors. I find that when I have been to presentations of silents, the audience, by and large have gone to gawp at an old curiosity, rather than to enjoy a work of art. I pity the fools!!