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(The pic is me, but the background was at an Ironman exhibition promotion for the magazine!)
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
disappointing, stupid and awful
With all those big name stars, and a topic I like to know about I was looking forward to seeing it all. Not for long though, but I persevered for about 20 minutes, and then saw the last few minutes, and the extra piece on the DVD. Is that enough to be able to comment?
Well, it's longer than I've given some other really big earners! Unless I can see what is happening from very early on, they have a problem in keeping me there. They failed. So, why rate it as HIGH as 2? Coz the special effects are impressive.
Michael Caine looks better than in some other movies. Perhaps age is making him more mellow, and less brash.
The Eagle Has Landed (1976)
synchronicity it is said!
The guy with the eye patch quotes Jung (I think), about the way fate sometimes delivers just the thing we really really want!
The movie starts with news clips showing the daring rescue of Mussolini and tells us that Hitler gets the idea of doing the same to Churchill. Of course, we know that didn't happen, so why bother watching all the rest of it? Coz we also know that Higgins can write action-packed thrillers (Was this really his first book?)
Having got the basic idea, the Germans set out to do a feasibility study and they have the ideal guy to do it for them, Steiner (Caine) and his band of paratroopers. Conveniently, they have captured an intact MTB AND a C47 plane.
Their plan is to pretend to be from the Polish Free Force, but they wear their German uniforms underneath so that if (when) they are caught, they won't be summarily executed as spies.
Right on very early on, the movie has the feel of a Higgins super- thriller and so I watch, wondering... how is it going to end? Other reviews will tell you if you don't want to watch it. There are a couple of silly scenes, the instant "love" between Molly and Devlin - nah, and the silly vicar, but apart from that it is all "GO".
Treat Williams an American who replaces Larry Hagman's character is the best of the support cast, and he gets a great line.. "there's no such thing as death with honour, only death". Yeah, but tell that to the jingoists.
Portrait of a Showgirl (1982)
good clean fun!
A pleasant surprise. From a place I will never get near (Las Vegas). I thought it was going to be silly and sloppy, but no, there is a plausible story, some great lines, and very good acting from all the cast.
In the very first scene, Jillian gets pulled over for speeding (in a Mercedes 450, in the deserts of Nevada?) and we see the cop making sure his hair is tidy before getting out of his cruiser! That's the sort of detail that impresses. Then he tries to chat her up, maybe see again, tells her about the great places to eat, but gets rebuffed with a "Eating's against my religion!" she says. "Too bad speeding isn't against your religion" as he writes the ticket!
Jillian gets to town and joins the dancers at Caesar's Palace and suggests a new dance step, but it's not popular with the others and there is a bit of tension and when her ex shows up there is a bit more tension. Things get resolved. And there is a bit of serious attitude explaining. It's fun, especially the scene where a congressman lusts after her body. How does she cope? Simple, "What about the money". That silences him quickly, it is obviously bad for his self image.
Meeting up with the med student working as a parking valet brings more chances for great lines and scenes.
The Queen (2006)
Nothing much wrong throughout!
The casting stands out first, just about every character is so like the real person it is like watching a documentary. and what they say is believable too. The queen of course, and the Duke, and Charles, and Blair the new prime minister and his wife. All great.
The sad events of the era, the death in very suspicious circumstances of Diana, and then the problems of how the royals react is all here.
A thought does occur to me, afterwards, that Blair's ambition to change and improve Great Britain seems to have been lost in the subsequent years. My guess is that Blair will now be regarded as just another...whatever, and who-cares. So much was promised?
The Grid (2004)
First-class believable, thriller drama
There is a terrorist and others intent on destroying the "vulgar" western world. Totally committed, ruthless, anyone who gets in the way gets killed.
But on the other side is the various government agencies intent on catching the terrorists, and these ones will actually try to work together instead of their usual practices of keeping everything to themselves and not cooperating.
The title could be considered in two ways, 1. is the idea of horizontal and vertical lines that mesh and intersect and interweave - all that happens. 2. Then there is the idea of something like a power supply grid with lines reaching out everywhere - that happens too as the terrorists will go anywhere in the world to achieve their aims, and all the spooks will also go after them.
Great acting, writing, production and direction. And something perhaps to be scared of?
The Darwin Awards (2006)
a missed opportunity?
The basic idea is great! Make a movie about some idiots, some of whom are well known. But others not so, and some don't even die? So they surely don't qualify for the Darwin Award.
Winona Ryder is the best here, sparkling and real. Not so for Fiennes, who comes across as an idiot who doesn't die, doesn't seem real. The other minor roles are great, especially the paramedic at the end.
Most of the dialogue is too ordinary to catch my attention and there is only one really good scene, the one where a helium balloon is used to enhance cell-phone reception... and the consequences, for which we have to wait until after the credits roll! By the way, the credits, where each actor is shown along with his/her role, is a great idea that I wish all other movies would copy.
Dead Man Down (2013)
Continuously high quality.
It's the acting that sets this movie way above so many others. Of course, there has to be a plausible story, and great direction and production. DMD has just about all that is required.
I particularly liked the quite-often long pauses between sentences. That is the way real people talk, they stop to think, they look to one side or somewhere else. If I see a movie that is rapid-fire blah-blah, it will spoil the atmosphere. So, not here. Another good point is the occasional scene which does require some dots to be joined, ie, there is no explicit telling, we have to guess or understand what is going on, ie, Victor is seen walking towards Alex's house and a bit later Vic now knows about Alex's credit card payments, so... he must have gone into the house to get that info.
Farrell and Rapace and Terence Howard the very suave bad guy, do such a good job, and Cooper is much better than the awful role in Mamma Mia (IMO). Interesting also is the brief mention of the ship "United States", looking a bit sad and neglected now.
One event which is not really explained or even hinted at, is the remote gadget which makes a whole lot of other gear blink green lights. - explosives maybe, or a deleted scene? I'm not sure. The brief "extra" feature on the DVD shows how they prepare for the fights and the escape from the fifth floor, interesting. And both Farrell and Rapace say a bit too.
Patriot Games (1992)
Inspite of all the stars, it's boring mostly.
First rate author (Clancy), great big star (Ford), famous role (Ryan), beautiful wife (Archer) with over-cute daughter, a story with some good bits. Alas, it all comes together as really boring, they all do their stuff and it should all connect, but doesn't for me. Trying to introduce issues about Ireland and IRA is distracting and marginally inaccurate? But then the departure of Jimmy is enough to raise my rating by 1.
In one of the other Clancy films, he is listed as an "executive producer" and gives a voice-over commentary. That might have made this mess a whole lot better. The credits say it was shot in studios and the US, but not London? So, those scenes must have been faked? Not that it matters I suppose.
Natural Enemy (1996)
Honest, real awfulness
A text message at the very end, after the credits, tells us that adopted children get psychiatric problems a lot more than others.
I wish I had seen that before the starting to watch - the early scenes show some really awful stuff.
When she was 17, Sandy (Leslie Ann Warren) gave birth to Jeremy (William McNamara) but gave him up for adoption. The very first scene shows him setting fire to one of his adoptive parents! Much later, he says he has spent his whole life trying to understand why he wasn't good enough to keep.
Inspite of the awfulness throughout the movie, it does raise all sorts of issues and deals with them well. It does help to have faultless acting from the whole cast, and excellent production and direction and appropriate locations - mainly a stunning house somewhere in Montreal (although the story says Boston and Dover.)
I found it so hard to give a rating. Awfulness usually gets a 1 from me, but a second watching after reading the end message, requires a big rethink, so now it's a 9.
Tweenies might like it most?
Well, it is a fairy story, (sort-of), with an awful step- mother(Huston), and step-sisters, one of whom looks so much like the main character Danielle (Barrymore) that I had difficulty connecting with either! So, the casting people could have done better? The other sister is blonde, and instantly recognisable.
Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) is the star of this movie for me, although the others get the main billing. He gets a lot of time and can show a lot of emotion and attitude that adds so much to any movie. And I liked the brief appearance of Timothy West as the Prince's father. And then there is Leonardo Da Vince no less! and he gets some great lines and scenes.
An impressive production of same-as, same-as
It must have taken an enormous effort to film the chases, the shoot- outs, especially that first one in Turkey (according to the DVD).
But the overall story, although very dramatic and full of ACTION is really so ordinary, just like dozens of other films, (ie, Cruise's) and so many others that I've seen recently. ie, initial set-up of "the problem", followed by numerous chase scenes, and eventually, a great big shooting spree. It gets predictable, inevitable, and rather boring.
The best bits (for me), the fancy computer graphics used to trace Bond through London and elsewhere, and I'm curious to know just where that great big bridge at the start is?
Judy Dench is great of course, and there is a brief appearance of Albert Finney (Masroy in Erin Brockovich), hard to even recognise.
Now I'm tempted to actually read a real Fleming "Bond" story, just to see if he puts all that shooting in?
John Wick (2014)
Does this really reflect US? Maybe that explains the tragically high gun crime/tragedy of the whole nation. The people who say its "Action" are in a different world?
Thousands of bullets, scores of dead baddies. Why bother? And the DVD extras don't help, except to show the preparation for the "fight" sequences. (who-cares?)
Wick (Reeves) is coping with the death of his wife (unexplained?) and then receives a delivery of a puppy, apparently from the wife?. Then, another tragedy, he gets tangled up with a Mafia-type crowd from Russia. One of them steals his 69-Mustang AND kills the puppy.
Clearly revenge is coming. For 90 minutes. Oh dear.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Authenticity and realism
I watched a couple of years ago, rated it 9, but couldn't remember much, so watched it again yesterday, and the extras on the DVD which adds quite a bit to the whole experience.
This might seem odd, but I am impressed with the absence of the crude MF language which I have NEVER heard a real person say, and which is so prevalent in a lot of other war movies.
The first part, on June 6, 1944, is awful in its realities. This is what those guys went through, and again at the very end, hand to hand fighting in the village. We see the fear and dread in the Jeremy Davies character.
My only tiny adverse comment might be about the scenes at the war graves place. The green stuff looks like astro-turf and the head stones look like polystyrene!
Rehearsal for Murder (1982)
Well, the title should tell us a lot without spoiling? There is a murder, and "rehearsal" suggests something happening first and then a result. Yep, we get all of that, and a whole lot more.
A playwright Alex Dennison (Preston) is putting on a new play. His new fiancé is a star, and is hoping for good reviews from the critics, but... alas, dies! It looks like suicide, but Alex is not sure, and has a particular suspect in mind.
A year later, he gets five people to come to a theatre to "rehearse" his new play. They read through the script of a few short scenes, each one of which seems to incriminate one of the people there, (The promoter, producer, director, a stand-in for the dead star, and her boyfriend (Goldblum).
Of course, he also has to have the main suspect there in order to get him/her to confess! And a cop to arrest in the very last scene.The use of the stage lights to heighten the atmosphere is clever and effective.
It's all very realistic, the scenes are believable partly because although they are just reading the script, the video shows what was happening the previous year (according to Preston). They all have motive and opportunity, so ... which one is it?
The tension builds, some of them are so upset they want OUT, now. So Alex "persuades" them to stay, of course. More drama ensues until the very end.
The acting is superb throughout and most of the story is easy to follow. This ought to be a classic of the mystery/crime genre. And so easy to produce? No outside scenes, cheap-as to make?
Fury: Blood Brothers (2015)
Essential addition to "fury"
... along with the feature hidden under "languages", which is an English description service that describes what is happening, and goes a long way to help understand the film.
Most of the actors get a word or several, and director and others who are not titled, I suppose the producer? and others.
The best feature is the real veterans who would be the best judges of the authenticity of the horribleness of what we then see in "fury".
This feature should be seen by all those VERY negative reviewers, who weren't there, and don't know nothing.
Brad Pitt looks so different.
Light and fluffy, and very cute, in parts.
'a bit hard to watch with sub-titles, and French audio, so turn the sound way down.
It's about a cute young lady seemingly looking for "love"? and so she follows some strange events after finding a long-hidden cache of a child's stuff, but then isn't at interested in it's rightful owner?
But seeing a guy scratching around a photo booth, and then reassembling the torn-up discards of the many customers, she sees an ad that might be relevant.
There are lots of very good support actors, but the story seems to drift a bit in the second half. So, 7 = average in my view.
'so very glad I wasn't there.
No amount of reading war history or personal accounts can match the way "Fury" displays so many realities of war experience. Whilst some other reviewers complain about clichés, I recognise that clichés or not, this is reality. There is the bulldozer pushing dead bodies, the tank crushing a corpse, the clerk cleaning the inside of the tank after a death, the older crew and their relationships, summary executions, decisions of strategy by the commander, fear, confusion, civilian casualties... and so many more.
Brad Pitt's performance is so much better than in (for example) Inglourious Basterds, here, he captures the very essence of his role and seems to almost enjoy doing it. A feature of the DVD shows Pitt looking about 10 years younger than in the movie - does that show just what the make-up people can do? (with hair cement?)
Logan Lerman as the typist-clerk suddenly sent to be assistant driver in Pitt's tank is just as important to the feel of the movie as Pitt. Well done.
The basic story is easy to follow, a tank and its crew involved in the battles across Germany near the end of the war, the characters are well defined, the acting is flawless, and there are several especially good scenes with memorable dialogue, so I've given it a 9. OK, so the final scenes are not really believable, (is that an LED torch we see?) but by then I've decided on the rating to give it!
The section where they meet up with two beautiful young women is so similar to what happens in the totally different movie "All Quiet on the Western Front", perhaps the writer knew that? Anyway, it was worth putting in.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
One can't be involved with IMDb without hearing, seeing, reading such a lot about this "epic". It has been top of the ratings since forever, and the user-reviews are superlatives-on-steroids! But can I really have rated 40 or 50 or more that are 8, 9 or 10? Yep! ie - Braveheart, "Legends of the Fall".
I saw the trailers, and wasn't really impressed - just another US jail pic? So I read some reviews, and saw other clips. Eventually, the local DVD shop had it on a super special, 3 disc set AND the complete script in a book, all for just $5! gosh, the book would have cost that much for the paper? So I doubt if Castle Rock, or Columbia or anyone involved in making it, got a single cent?
So I started with disc 3, boring pseudo-interviews with the main actors. Didn't learn much there, and the "behind the scenes" clip was only 9 minutes and not very informative, so, to disc 2 and eventually watched the actual film. By now I'm a bit overloaded with superlatives. But then thought about the tiny flaws, ie, Robbins as the main character Andy. Insipid, unconvincing? maybe, doesn't come across as either an innocent inmate, nor as a super clever. Norton the warden looks and sounds more like a small-town bank manager and acts like a modern big city corrupt banker? Hadley, the awful captain of the guard looks more like a "upwardly mobile professional"?The other inmates are forgettable (except Brooks, the OLD guy). The "get busy living or get busy dying" scene confuses me, that is what I call a "sillyism". It means whatever you want it to mean.
I note that there is almost zero female participation? Well, it's a jail story of course, not much room for skirts. On my rating system, I gave it a 1 out 2 for the story, 1.5 out of 2 for the character definitions, 1.5 out 2 for the acting (Freeman is great of course), 2 for the filming, I kept noticing the colours and contrasts even in the dull setting, and only 1 more for the directing and production. 0 for special scenes! then 1 more for the dvds!
disc 1 also has a commentary by Frank Darabont, which didn't really add much. But he does comment on the question of how the poster got put back up after the escape! "Get over it, it's movie" True. His chapter in the booklet told everything, including why various scenes had not been shot "mutatis mutandis" (look it up!)
Midnight Man (2008)
DARK DARK stuff
and fear, paranoia, government death squad, mistakes, remedy... it's all here, and more!
Max Raban (James Nesbitt) is a reporter with a couple of big problems, one, he's dead scared of daylight! So, he does a lot of stuff at night, midnight if necessary, like... scratching through rubbish bags to get (whatever), on one of his previous "scoops" he gets dirt on a politician, but then, his source hangs herself and Max is out of job.
But then, a very-small time soccer player gets killed, and beheaded. Whilst raking through a bin to get info on the Defence Secretary who might be having an affair, he finds a document with "Headless Torso" and "Pugnus Dei" in it. What's this all about. So he goes digging.
Gradually, the evidence builds up. He is followed, he sees his follower mugged and buys the phone and wallet from the muggers, and learns of a connection to a shady outfit called "Defence Concerns", so, of course, that's his next call. The boss is Daniel Cosgrave (Rupert Graves), the policy adviser is Alice Ross (Catherine McCormack).
This movie might be McCormack's most impressive performance. She is so well dressed, and really becomes the part, it doesn't seem like acting at all. She even has a phobia of her own. (OCD?) and it fits in perfectly with all the rest of the story. The best scene is when Alice "gets" the memory stick and copies it... but Daniel hesitates as he leaves... and knows that he NEVER leaves his keys in the desk lock...
Silliest scene is Alice, (fully clothed) in the bath!
The writing is first-class, with lots of especially good scenes with memorable, and quotable lines. And there is nothing wrong with the directing and production. I liked it.
better than any history lesson !!
They say one picture is worth a thousand words? Well, here, a million words still wouldn't cover the reality that the cast and crew have put on the screen.
When I first saw it a couple of years ago I only gave it a 9, coz I thought Gibson looked a bit too old, but now, I can ignore the tram-lines on the forehead and just appreciate the excellent performance he gives. And, the interesting commentary he adds to the DVD, - explaining the "mechanical" horse scenes! and talking about the Murron (Catherine McCormack) "audition". (I wish that had been videoed, and released!)
Of course, I didn't know or care about 13th century history, but here it is, in full colour, and full emotion. With, as Gibson explains, added little bits of drama and humour just to relieve the awfulness of the reality of hand-to-hand combat that was so dramatically displayed.
Some people say it is not historically accurate? 'doesn't matter in my view, it is plausible. (except for the final hung/drawn/quartered scenes? that is simply not survivable, but Gibson does explain that what really happened was even worse.
I was so impressed with so many of the support cast. McCormack as Murron, so sad, yet that is most of the plot, that Wallace was so passionate that he got his revenge, quickly getting support from neighbouring clans, glens and towns. Patrick McGoohan as the horrible King Edward, Sophie Marceau, Jeanne Marine, Tommy Flanagan (with the Glascow 'smile'!) and his bride Julie Austin too, although only very briefly on screen, such a good piece of writing, direction and acting.
England and Scotland, at that time, and for some centuries after, was an awful place to be, full of scheming nobles, treachery, cruelty, civil war - yet somehow, evolution seems to have softened the hard hearts of men?
Braveheart is very close to being my 'best ever' movie, so it's a 10 now.
I keep recalling the Donovan song, "Universal Soldier". Well, here is that theme on the screen. Young men jingoed into "serving" their country, training, fighting, killing and sometimes reflecting, regretting.
We see the school masters urging these bright boys, when in reality they are giving their body and soul to the politicians of the day. So sad... and nothing much has changed in a hundred years. "There is no alternative", say the jingoists.
Richard Thomas in one of his best roles and performances is Paul, one of several in his school. We see them develop from naïve boys, they are trained by crawling through the mud at the command of the corporal, later, we see the Kaiser urging them on. We see the boys at the front and in an especially moving scene they meet some French girls and what ensues. Not much later, Paul meets a French soldier, dying. (Ernest Borgnine is an older, more experienced soldier. Another great performance.
This movie really ought to be compulsory viewing for all recruits of all armies? and the politicians too.
Little Voice (1998)
only 3 or 4 minutes really great, the rest is yawn-stuff
When LV, "laura", (Jane Horrocks) gets on the stage and really does her stuff, we see talent that she seems to have hidden in all her other roles. Such a pity? Playing the funny but very silly Bubble in Ab- Fab is a distraction? (Mo, in "Born Romantic" is much better?)
Here it is hard to believe this is the same Jane! And then she retreats into the strange fantasy world. With such a flimsy story, the movie has to include various trivial scenes just to fill out the time, ie, Billy (Ewan McGregor) and his pigeons, and then there was the blousy, brassy mother, Mari who is awful - gosh it must take really good skills to act that stuff? They get a telephone installed. Great, that fills up a few minutes and provides a few feeble laughs. "You must be the famous Phone Bill". yerss. The house has appalling electrical wiring, cue sparks, blackouts, and later a fire. The dead father gets a few minutes too.
Michael Caine's role is sleazy show promoter. Nothing special there. Same for all the others?
Life After People (2008)
well worth the $1 I paid
It was in a "scratched" bin at an op-shop, but all three discs played OK. Each of the ten programmes is only 42 minutes, so at one/day, it kept me interested for quite a while.
In each episode, I found at least one really interesting item, mostly about abandoned places... a village in Dorset, a whole city in Indiana, a whole (small) island near Japan. And then there was the plants side. I knew a little about the vine Kudzu, and now I know a bit more, and Brazilian ginger too.
Yes, the frequent CGI's of pancaking buildings gets a bit tiresome, especially when I know that this will take many decades before it happens, and, as others have pointed out, no one will see it, so who- cares? And only some of the "experts" were interesting. Although made in 2007, there were no shots of the twin towers demise.
Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
So very impressive.
Very early in this movie I could feel the tension in that plotting room, and realise that the cast and crew had captured all the drama, the surprises, the realities, and sometimes, some emotion too.
Kenneth More as the newly appointed director of the op's room is a stickler for discipline. He expects all the rules of the Navy to be observed and he doesn't hesitate to tell people off if they transgress.
All the acting is superb, I feel like I'm really there too. As the new information comes in and we see the situation develop. We all know the basic story, and the outcome, but this movie goes into the hard work and hard thinking that ensured the final result.
The initial planning of the German Navy was over-ambitious? Surely they knew that unless one has a secure coastline, with well equipped bases all over the place, then a Navy is a bit of a waste of time, and effort? Britain had all that, and had the tradition of centuries, and knew how to use it (mostly - the later demise of Prince of Wales near Singapore showed how narrow the thinking was?). Perhaps silly Hitler just assumed that the world power he was aiming at, just HAD to have a big navy? Raeder and other admirals should have advised him?
Later in the movie, we see the officers of both sides staring across the ocean at their target - a target that has BIG guns pointing straight at them, ones that when the puff of smoke comes, means that very soon, a huge shell will come screaming straight at them and their comrades - that must have been so scary. The British knew that their "Hood" had been sunk, would they soon be next? And the Germans knew they were hopelessly outnumbered and out-gunned.
In some respects, perhaps the whole incident has been over-rated? Was the Bismarck such a terrible threat? I don't recall ever seeing any attempt at a "what-if", ie, if the ships had got to Brest, would they ever have been able to get out again? The British would have lost a lot of aircraft and crews as they attacked, (as they did against the other German ships there) but my guess is that the idea of using battleships to attack the convoys was fatally flawed both from that "bases" point, and also from the "resupply" issues.
Germany did arrange for tankers and other ships to meet Bismarck for fuel, ammunition, food, but, the British, through the Enigma cracking, knew where these ships were, and simple sunk them - later. If Bismarck had not been damaged and sunk, perhaps it might have done some damage, but then, would have to return to Brest... and stay there (Yes, but the other ships did scoot through the Channel later)
I've read somewhere that half of Germany's submarines never even saw a target ship! So, would the surface ships do any better? Maybe, maybe not? We'll never know.
Something else that if different, is the quality of the acting. I've seen other movies from that era and been so disappointed by the Stewart and Niven and others. Is this a difference between Hollywood and Britain? Maybe. Much much later (2001!) Robert Redford, in a DVD bonus feature of "Spy Game", says, (of Catherine McCormack) ..."She has the benefit, as so many English actors have, of... craft, of solid training". So very true.
men, guns, bang-bangs, HEY, this is WAR ain't it so
If special effects were the only criteria, I'd give it an 8! And isn't it unusual that all the first user-reviews are very negative! IMDb usually puts really positive ones on page 1? But... I expect 1. a story that I can follow without thinking wtf is going on now, so 0/2 2. I expect characters that I can recognize and know what they are doing, so 0/2 3. then there is the acting. Well with so much FX there is not much time or space for the actors to do much more than say the lines, mostly without real emotion, 1/2, then 4. are there any especially good scenes? na, 0/2 Nor memorable lines. Still, with a current rating average of 8.2, somebody must love it all.
so, with 1 for the FX and production, and another for the roly-poly droid, that adds up to 3. And here is a challenge, to try and count all the cast and crew! It goes on in small font for ten minutes!
My suggestion for Lucas and the Bad Robot etc, call the next one, "Star Peace", but I won't hold m'breath.