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Match Point

Shockingly poor
About 15 minutes in, my wife and I turned to each other and agreed that this was rubbish. In fact, if it hadn't been a Woody Allen film, we might've stopped watching. The acting is rotten, but given that the script is appallingly bad, they didn't stand a chance. (Brian Cox was good, and Johansson had her moments, but that's about it.) The lines are so cliché-laden, we thought that maybe it was all supposed to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but unfortunately it turns out it was all "serious".

I was mightily relieved when the film finally achieved some dramatic tension. The plot at this point wasn't original, but it was quite well done, and I almost decided that the film might be worth 5/10 after all. But the denouement is utterly ridiculous - Allen has resorted to remaking one of his own films! Sad. If this is the future level of Allen's film-making, I hope he retires.

About Schmidt

Lacking strength
I started watching the film about 30 minutes in, just as Helen is being taken, dead, from the house, and that seemed like a reasonable place to start. I'm not sure what, if anything, is added to the viewing experience by seeing her alive. The film isn't about her, it's about Warren; it's his road movie.

Is Jack Nicholson miscast? I know it was already 5 years since "As Good As It Gets", but this character isn't far enough away from that one, at least in the way that Nicholson plays it. Only right at the end does he look the part: really sad and un-Jack.

Also I think that the film is either a bit under-scripted, or the directorial touch is too light. Some scenes come and go without a feeling that they've given their full contribution to the film.


Two hours. Too long for such a simple story. An interesting cast, but maybe not a good cast, because it's such a mixture. All those different accents is odd enough, in a film supposedly set in La France Profonde. So, though I don't think anyone acted badly, the uncomfortable combination of foreigners reminded me of Star Trek.

The film falls between too stools. It's too odd to be realistic, and too realistic to be a fantasy/morality tale. (Having said that, the atmosphere created by the director and designers is often very good.) I was again reminded of lame SF tales by the simplicity of the religious/social aspect of the story. The freethinking outsider disturbing the status quo... and why not throw some gypsies into the mix?! Molina is good in a Molina-esque way, but how much do we really get to know him, never mind the minor characters, such as the hapless Serge.

The ending of the film is generally well done, and I almost changed my score to 8, but I should resist the temptation to be taken in by the naivety of the "message".

Krtek: Krtek ve snu
Episode 27, Season 1

The best Mole
This is my favourite of the Mole series. Some viewers may find the creativity has been taken a bit too far, but I love it. The title means "The Mole in a Dream" and the dreamer is some guy that Mole happens to bump into one day at the roadside. The guy has stopped to change a tyre (kind of), and Mole secretly grabs a lift.

We are in the future. The world depicted, of the automatic home, owes something to Tati's "Mon Oncle". The guy's dinner makes itself, the dishes wash themselves, arms even come out of the walls to give him a bath. Mole cottons on quickly and gets himself a free dinner, but unfortunately ends up in the dishwasher. The guy has a couple of surprising encounters with Mole, then falls asleep in front of the telly and the dream begins...

Zdenek allows his imagination free rein in the dream sequence - it's a feast of surrealism, with a bike-riding boar, a soup-eating bear and bouncing lion. But the dream has a message, for in it the futuristic world has collapsed: no petrol, no electricity. Mole rescues the guy just as he's about to freeze to death. They proceed to burn all the furniture to keep themselves warm. And when the spring comes they revel like pagans in the sun's warmth.

Mole saves the day even in your dreams! If you're a fan of animation the whole Mole series is worth a look, but this, together with the Eagle and Town episodes, is one of the best.

Assigné à résidence

Grandeur in the sadness
One of the best short films I've ever seen. The subject is unique: I don't think anyone else has ever written a book by blinking an eyelid, and Bauby's story is remarkable. And it is fitting that a famous and good director like Beineix set out to chronicle Bauby's last weeks on earth. He takes full advantage of the atmosphere inside and outside the hospital to generate a quite surprising level of intensity. I found the film profoundly moving, and many of the students I showed it to were affected too.

It would be great if it was made more available, but when or how that will happen, I don't know.

Barney's Great Adventure

Not that bad.
Though its budget and production values are a tad too low, the production team should be congratulated for what they've achieved here. It isn't a bad children's musical, and has our toddlerette captivated. The simplicity of the story is a good thing for her, as are all the colours - it's a very colourful film. And there some nice little touches, like the guy cooking in his truck, the Chez Snobbe restaurant, the juggler, and the library scene, where the set design is excellent. The child actors do a good job, too.

So, not really good enough for anyone over five, but great fun for the little ones.

Egészséges erotika

Hungarian Inventiveness
One of the weirdest films I've ever seen, so if you like weird, see it! The Hungarian DVD has English subtitles (that call the movie "Sound Erotica").

The set-up is the typical male-versus-female bosses-versus-workers arrangement in a small wooden-crate-making factory. Rajhony plays the boss with the yoghurt fetish, while Koltai plays the guy he employs as his fire-safety chief. Koltai suggests installing CCTV, but to spy on the girls rather than to protect them. The firm soon starts selling a lot more crates, as they invite clients in to watch the girls undressing before and after work. Of course, in the end the girls find out and exact revenge.

But the weirdness isn't so much in the silly story as in the way Timar films it. First, it's in black and white. Second, the dialogue is in a stilted, poetic form, somewhat reminiscent of Greek tragedies. Third, much of the movie was filmed backwards. If you know "De Fem Benspænd" you'll recognise these as what film-makers call "obstructions".

The denouement brought to mind a couple of 20th-century classics: Duerrenmatt's "Biedermann und die Brandstifter" and Romanik's "Static".

The acting... Rajhona and Nemeth (the bolshie worker) are excellent, Koltai is, well, Koltai, and Kristof (the boss's secretary) hams it up better than Timar could've dreamed for. All in all, I can't say the film's a "classic", but I enjoyed it.

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.

Persona Non Grata, American-Style
Leuchter is one amazing guy. This is a guy who became one of the US's foremost experts on death engineering - he designed and built/rebuilt several execution devices for death rows throughout the nation. Then, tragically, he took it upon himself to travel to Auschwitz and hammer bits off the gas chambers to bring home for cyanide testing. His conclusion: no-one was gassed there. Oops. Then he compounded his mistake by testifying for Ernst Zundel and speaking at holocaust-revisionist meets throughout the world.

So, an excellent subject for a movie, and Morris does an okay job. There are a few faults. The quality of some of the interview footage is quite poor. And there is the question of the reconstructions. Leuchter provided Morris with plenty of "home movies" which are incorporated into the film, so the function of the reconstructions seems merely to be to reinforce in our minds the dramatic qualities of a lot of the actions Leuchter performed. Personally, I could've done without them.

10/10 for the subject, 6/10 for the film-making, gives 8/10 overall.


Another Australia
It made a refreshing change to find this film on TV this weekend. I knew nothing about it but from the beginning I could tell it would be interesting and good. First, it had that early 70s feel about it: edgy, a bit experimental, with long brooding shots of people and places. Second, the opening shocking scenes drew me in to wondering what would happen to the two children. Third, Jenny Agutter looks absolutely fantastic: who cares about the slow pace when you've got such a beautiful face (sic) to look at? As the film progressed, I particularly admired the young boy's performance - remarkable considering the conditions he had to perform in. There are also many great shots of Australian scenery and wildlife. I was a bit irritated by the obvious attempts by the director to "raise the heat" but I concede that much of it was justified. The film does appear to drag (even more!) towards the end, but I was fascinated by the abandoned places.

At the end I saw that it was a Nic Roeg film and that explained quite a lot!

Code 46

Makes you wonder...
I liked the feel of this film, but...

It's a kind of Orwellian "Lost in Translation" (with a chunk of A. Huxley thrown in for good measure). Samantha Morton is great as the Winston Smith/Scarlett Johansson character. I liked the Asian settings, one of the scenes reminding me of a hotel I stayed at in Delhi. I liked the futuristic English language with its smattering of Spanish and French.

So, why only five stars? Well, it's not just bleak, it's dull. Three things happen in an hour and a half, and Tim Robbins doesn't breathe much life into those meagre happenings. I'm surprised that Hollywood backed it - who did they think would want to watch it? I'm one of the few people I can think of who might enjoy such a film, and even I found it boring.

De fem benspænd

Peters out
Deconstructing/reconstructing films like this must be great fun for film-makers, especially when, like here, they have the money to do it properly. But is such self-indulgence fun for outsiders like me? Well, to an extent, yes. I like games, and this was a kind of game: make it as difficult as you can to remake the film, by imposing all sorts of restrictions. "The Five Obstructions" starts really well: there's dramatic tension in the meeting of the two directors, and the challenge is tough. The original film, "The Perfect Human", is a good candidate for this sort of treatment, too, being so sparse. But perhaps unsurprisingly, once the first challenge has been met, it's all downhill from there. Von Trier runs out of ideas (IMO) and the experiment gradually runs out of steam.

What irritated me most, though, was Von Trier's attitude. At first it seemed that he and Leth were buddies having a bit of (sado-masochistic) fun together. But in the end I was left with the impression that Von Trier was patronising Leth, kind of trying to help out an old has-been as a thank-you for all the inspiration he'd taken from him in his early days. I found this a bit rich, considering that Leth is an archetype of cool, and far and away the star of the film. Next to him, Von Trier just came across as an upstart nerd.

George Orwell: A Life in Pictures

Brave and original
Although he only died fifty or so years ago, no film exists of George Orwell. Given that (if he'd been active a decade or two later) there could just as easily have been a considerable Orwell video archive, the filmmakers have gone ahead and created one, based on his writings and audio recordings. It's a serious endeavour which goes a long way to helping a young, modern audience better understand Orwell. The variety of invented films is impressive.

Although a serious, semi-educational project, the choice of Langham to play the great man, as well as the Zelig-like quality of the film, gives it a wry humour: it's not taking itself _too_ seriously. Langham is well cast; he isn't a brilliant actor but he does a respectable job.

Jean de Florette

Okay, you have to give a lot of the credit to Pagnol for the book, but this to me is one of the best movies ever made. - A classic, simple story, beautiful location beautifully filmed, and a triumvirate of marvellous actors in Depardieu, Auteuil and Montand.

  • I saw this again a few days ago and enjoyed very minute. - Is it really true I have to submit at least ten lines? This is a new rule, right? Shouldn't you warn people before they start writing?

Love Actually

Not bad, actually
I enjoyed this film, including the little touches which asserted its Britishness. One or two of the stories were (even for a film with so many stories) underdeveloped, one or two of the scenes could've been edited, but in general it was cleverly done. Made me cry... <blub>

I think what spoiled it was the totally ridiculous bit about the guy going to Milwaukee and... well, I won't say what happened, but c'mon, what was that?

The End of the Affair

I almost prayed
Was this really a whole novel? Seems like a short story - there's about ten minutes' worth of material eked out over an hour and a half. Not only do we get lots of flashbacks, they're even repeated two or three times. And the subject: Fiennes having an affair with Moore, who's Rea's wife, isn't particularly interesting, so in a vain effort to spice it up a bit there's a supernatural angle. Well, I almost prayed it would hurry up and end.


Funny but...
Although I agree that 40sthg was funny and well acted, and that it was a shame that it was demoted to a later timeslot, it did begin to pall after the first few episodes. I don't know, I think that the project was strung out too much; maybe the episodes should've been fewer or shorter, or it should've been a movie rather than a series. When you have several irritating characters I think you have to expect that the viewing public will also begin to get irritated, well before the denouement arrives to make it all seem worthwhile.

Lost in Translation

Another kind of escapism
I feel a bit uncomfortable watching films like this. That's because I'm wondering what my fellow moviegoers are making of it. You see, it's not typical Hollywood fare - no action, no jokes, no fairy-tale plot. In fact I'd label it a European movie, even though it was made by Americans in Japan. But even though Coppola makes no concessions I felt that the audience was won over.

The best one-word review I can come up with is "real". Coppola has gone for realism in a big way. The film is slow-paced with scenes where the characters do and say little, and lots of shots of Tokyo doing the stuff Tokyo does. So the escapism this film provides is only that of being other, normal lives in another, normal place. No surprises, not even at the end. Brave and great.

Some people have criticised the film for taking it out on the Japanese, but I don't think there's anything unrealistic about the leading characters' response to their environment. If that response is cruel, well most people's is, unless they're so PC they constantly hide their true emotions behind platitudes. The only criticism I make is that I'm not sure that a doctor would rabbit on in Japanese if they could see that the other person didn't understand.

Finally, Murray and Johannson are so good, they deserve to win many awards.

Gosford Park

A mumbling masterpiece
A fabulous film. Great acting, good story, brilliant design. Not normally the kind of film I'd go and see, but it was so good I couldn't help but be drawn in to its world. Surely the best-ever cinematic depiction of the upstairs-downstairs lives of an English country house.

The only problem with it, and this was picked up on by several friends who saw it, was that it was often difficult to hear what the characters were saying. I don't know whether this was the fault of the sound guy on set, or the sound guy in post-production, or the tape makers, or the cinemas, but I do know it spoilt the film for a lot of people.


Nauseatingly fantastic
Surely one of the most gripping films I've ever seen, with two marvellous acting performances to boot. It's hard to review this film without using the word "disgusting". It is disgusting, like the kind of nightmare you can't tell anyone you had in case they call the police. But somehow it's just so clever and so well done it's possible to admit not only to liking this film, but also that it's a work of genius.


We liked this!
My goodness me, look at the cast list! No wonder this series was such a hit. One of the peaks of UK TV drama, people still remember it fondly when you say the name. Of course the suave Mr Owen stole the show, but that was only fair. It'd be interesting to see it again to see how much it's dated, but even if it has I'd recommend it unhesitatingly to any viewer or scheduler looking to spice up their afternoons.

This Is David Lander

Stephen Fry as Roger Cook
One of the many series to have transferred from BBC Radio 4 to BBC TV over the years, this is one of the ones which was better on radio. But, given that the radio show was brilliant, the TV show wasn't too bad.

Back in the Eighties one of the most famous men on British TV was Roger Cook, the consumers' champion, who braved having his head kicked in in order to challenge cowboy tradesmen about the way they'd fleeced members of the public. "David Lander" was Sarchet and Fry's parody of Cook's oeuvre, and pretty well done it was too. It's the kind of material that'll only stretch to one series, so it's been largely forgotten, but it's definitely worth a listen, if not a look.

Secrets & Lies

Getting better every time
Each time I see this film I like it more. It's never been my favourite Mike Leigh film, but it's growing on me. There are two things I've tended to find ridiculous about it: first, the premise that Cynthia and Hortense are related; second, Brenda Blethyn's acting. But methinks I've been too harsh - the scenario is not so unlikely, and Blethyn does a pretty good job. Acting honours still go to Tim Spall, who's brilliant in this just like he was in "Life is Sweet".

Now I'm looking forward to the next time it's on the telly...

Mighty Aphrodite

Mighty Mira, Flimsy Film
This was a disappointment. Mira Sorvino is good, and lights up the screen, but... It's under-directed, some of the characters (eg. Allen's wife) struggle with the paucity of material, and sometimes it's just downright frivolous. This is a shame, because in some ways it reminds me of "Crimes and Misdemeanors": there's a married couple and there's a moral dilemma. But "Crimes" was much better than this, partly because Allen didn't take the weight of the acting so much on himself, and partly because it treated a serious subject with some seriousness.

And sadly I'm not one of the three people on the planet who want to see Woody Allen kiss Mira Sorvino.

Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien

aka "The Eggs"
I like this kind of film so I liked this one, especially as it was well done. It reminded me a bit of "The Vanishing" but isn't quite that good. There's really only one moment when it's too unbelievable, and that's when Harry persuades the hero's parents to go on a little night-drive with him.

Sergi Lopez is excellent as Harry, the creep-out old schoolfriend who invites himself to the family's holiday home. (His girlfriend is perfect too.) I was kept interested wondering what his motivation might be, what made him tick. It's possible there's a subliminal homophobic message here, but it's good fun nonetheless.

Heavens Above!

Funny film, silly ending
Peter Sellers is great as the Brummie vicar whose gaucheness brings a small country town to its knees in this famous 60s satire. It's difficult to pin down the film's target; perhaps the film's so likeable because it seems to get a dig in at everybody at the same time. Among the targets are: religion, capitalism, communism, and British society and mores. The moral of the tale seems to be that no matter your efforts or intentions, you're unlikely to improve on the status quo (and could make things a lot worse). So in the last analysis maybe it's Conservative propaganda.

The film stomps merrily through all the issues with fun effect and should've quit when it was ahead. The final segment is crass and takes off some of the shine.

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