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Reviews

From Paris with Love
(2010)

Bang Bang Bang!!!
This is a classic example of needless Hollywood violence. It starts out as what seems to be a decent cloak and dagger story but soon degenerates into constant gunfire, flowing blood and falling bodies. It reflects badly and irresponsibly on both Hollywood films and American diplomacy. I wondered how many young people considered it "exciting" or "neat." Probably quite a few!. I found it disturbing and depressing. The US has a major problem with gun violence. Films like this, which portray guns as glamourous personal accessories, are a major contributor to that problem. A couple of generations ago, everybody in the movies smoked. Smoking was then glamourous and it prompted young people (including me at the time) to start smoking. Guns have replaced cigarettes and they are even deadlier.

Iceman
(1984)

Great story...bad movie...
It's great story line but a bad movie. Arctic scientists find the body of a 40,000 year old Neanderthal man in the ice and bring it back to life. OK. It's science-fiction with emphasis on the fiction! The snowy setting is intriguing and well photographed. But the whole thing collapses as the story line stumbles and stalls. The ending? Well, lets not give it away. But it's neither probable nor original. There is an excess of high tech jargon in the early scenes and endless rounds of two-way gibberish as the scientists try to communicate with their hairy guest. By the way, his name is Charlie.

Skyscraper
(2018)

Silly but sensational
I still don't know what this film was all about. For reasons not explained, the bad guys want to burn down a huge building in Hong Kong and the one good guy outwits and stops them. However the effects are sensational, a non ending sequence of fires, bombs, gunshots, close calls, explosions, risky jumps and hazardous situations. Unrealistic, silly, impractical and unbelievable, it nevertheless is worth watching. More than once I averted my eyes and let out various yelps, cries and gasps. It's exciting yet inoffensive. It's a harmless bit of cinematic fluff. But the sensational effects are well worth seeing.

Hope Springs
(2012)

Made to order for middle agers
This is not for everybody but it's a must for any married couple. It's a straightforward, uncomplicated, even predictable story about a couple whose 31 year marriage has lost its spark. I doubt if newlyweds or even singles would enjoy or even understand it. Long time married couples will identify with it immediately. Meryl Streep has never given a bad performance. Here again she is perfect for the role. A sensitive, realistic, believable and relevant film that is enjoyable and which may have saved a few "worn out" marriages.

Jojo Rabbit
(2019)

So bad it's almost good
This is one of those rare works that is so bad it's almost good. A young boy, in the last months of he war, identifies with Hitler and creates him as a mental companion. It's a good idea for a story. But it is poorly done. A basic question is whether anything about Nazism, even seventy years later, can be funny. There also are careless, unjustified errors. Hitler loathed tobacco and was a vegan. Yet he hands out cigarettes and, in one scene, is seated at a dinner table with a huge turkey, which, come to think of it, is a fitting metaphor for the film itself.

#AnneFrank - Parallel Stories
(2019)

Overdone
Is this a docu-drama or an exercise in cinematography? The camera work is superb! But it's overdone and too "artsy-dartsy" for a film of this type. It's also far too long. Nor do I understand how Helen Mirren fits in. She is a favourite of mine. But there seems little point in having her (or anybody else) do an on camera narration. Nor, unlike the original movie, this film would be a confusing mystery to anybody not familiar with Anne Frank's story or the grim history of the period.

Jusqu'au déclin
(2020)

Phew!!!
There are bad movies and awful movies. This one is awfully bad. It's about a group of people fleeing some sort of unspecified global catastrophe who end up on a secluded property. After one of their group dies, everybody starts killing everybody else. It's pointless, unbelievable, unrealistic and more than a little absurd. How does it end? Like the rest of this disjointed cinematic bang bang catastrophe. I was just grateful, and relieved that it did.

Mine 9
(2019)

Realism... Maybe too much
This is a splendidly done film about coal miners and coal mining. But maybe it's too well done. It tells the story of an explosion in a run down Appalachian coal mine so graphicly that I had to look away from the screen several times. In short, nothing is soft pedalled but then, coalmine disasters are not soft pedal events. As I write this, I have not yet gone to bed. I'm afraid that when I do I'll have a nightmare or two. However this is not to detract from the fact that the story, the effects, the acting, the staging and the drama are all superb. It is not sensationalism but realism. The film also captures the personality and lifestyle of both an Appalachan coal mining town and of the miners and their families. It must have taken guts to create the realism in this film. There is nothing objectionable or sensationalized. Yet I would be very hesitant to let a youngster watch it. Happy dreams!

The Seven Year Itch
(1955)

Pointless
We had seen this film in New York on our honeymoon in 1955. It was a hot item at the time. So when I saw it listed on TV, I recorded it. I recall we enjoyed it in 1955. But in 2020, it is a very silly, pointless and unfunny picture. Maybe we've changed. Maybe films have changed. Technically it is well done. But the story --- a summer bachelor cheating on his wife while she's away --- just doesn't do much. It could have been a clever comedy. Maybe it was in 1955. But the story line is predictable, unrealistic, repetitive, disorganized and cliched. Our marriage has survived the years much better than this movie. (Did we ever imagine in that day of boxy 17 inch black and white TV's with rabbit ears that 65 years later we would watch the same film by satellite, in colour and hi-def on a DVD on a 50" flat screen TV set on one of the 700 odd channels we receive. Wonder what TV's will be like if they dig it out again in 2085?)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
(2018)

I'm puzzled...
A wonderful film...humour...love...bad guys...good guys...gorgeous scenery... But after watching it, I was devastated to learn that it had not been done on the island of Guernsey. There may be sound production reasons for that, But I find it impossible to accept.

Hogar
(2020)

Dark and deptressing
This is a well done movie in many ways. I was in a bit of a downer anyhow. But even had I been in a happy mood, I still would have found the whole thing morbidly depressing. The Spanish and the Irish are two races that appear vibrant and happy. But both have a deep, dark streak. (I'm Irish incidentally and have that hidden, gaelic, morbid edge. I'm sure any Irish readers will know exactly what I mean.) Here is an aging and once successful business man down on his luck. But he copes with his problems with morbidity and cynicism. Nor have I yet figured out whether it was a happy ending or a sad one. But it makes Hamlet and Macbeth look like "light" entertainment. This is not a film to watch for entertainment. But if you like analyzing and discussing plots, characters, technique and the thinking and motivation of a film's creators, you'll have a good session.

Girl on the Third Floor
(2019)

Is there an Oscar for "most awful picture of 2019"
There is one good aspect to this film. It has a short running time. Anything longer would be unbearable. It is convoluted, confusing, illogical, inconsistent, absurd, offensive and tasteless.... There probably are even more negative labels that fit. When it starts --- and you'll wish it never had --- it's not clear whether this is a romance, a comedy, a family film, science-fiction, a slice of history or a drama. It becomes a horror film. And a horrible film as well. It is your basic and well worn "young couple buys old house" scenario. There are some disgustingly detailed gory scenes. The "F-word" is sprinkled needlessly from start to finish. Nobody ever explains what's going on, except that the house once was a bordello which doesn't really have much to do with anything. However it does pose a couple of important questions. Why would anybody spend money to produce something like this? And why would any actor want this on their filmography. Watched it because you're housebound by the flu pandemic? Believe me, getting the flu will be more enjoyable than watching this film.

French Toast
(2015)

Delightfully different...
This is a complicated, different, tri-lingual love story.( Sort of!) It is set, oddly enough, in both South Africa and Paris and the dialogue is in Afrikaans, French and English. (Even though major segments are set in South Africa, there are no black actors/characters. That seemed odd.) The camera work in Paris has captured the essence and character of that beautiful city. Although there is a brief glimpse of Capetown's stunnig Table Mountain, the South African portions are not as wide-ranging as those in Paris. Pity! Because Capetown is also a very beautiful city. The story is a rather involved, unlikely sort of tale yet intriguing, compelling, suspenseful, entertaining and beautiful. The characters are well drawn and believable. There is romance without graphic sex. There is humour, tension and beauty. And the whole thing is beautifully filmed. But the story gets rather puzzling and complicated at the end. But no matter! It's still a unique and intriguing story. I would have voted it a ten except for the limp and misleading title. But it is one of the my top notch films so far this year.

La trinchera infinita
(2019)

"Endless" fits
An interesting and well done film. But at two and a half hours, the word "endless" in the title is ironic. It would have been more effective (and more enjoyable) had it been scissored to 90 minutes.

United 93
(2006)

A dark day brightly done
This is not likely to turn up as an inflight movie anywhere or anytime. It captures the horror and the terror of 9/11. And although it captures the reality of the situation, the endless aviation jargon in the tower and the cockpit gets confusing and even boring. It's also difficult to understand how the producers of such an important film got so much so wrong. Cinematic licence or carelessness? (Look at the error file here on IMDB). Nevertheless it is a graphic and important re-telling of the events of that horrible day. Most intriguing to me was the fact that I knew what would happen, but none of the passengers, aircrew or ATC officials did. Their false hopes and attempted explanations of what was happening make compelling drama. Not likely as an in-flight movie? I don't even think you should watch it if you are booked on a flight anytime in the next six months!

The Coldest Game
(2019)

Dark and different
If you like cloak and dagger movies, you'll find this one very different from most. There are no good guys and bad guys. Indeed I don't believe there are any good guys at all. It's fiction so the historical inaccuracies cited in other reviews can be forgiven. But the characters are superbly drawn. The Polish actor is brilliant as the chief Russian bad guy. The setting in Warsaw is fascinating. The camera work is much above par. It 's very different from the James Bond genre yet in some ways much the same. I related to it 'because I lived through the Cuban crisis. I suspect it would not mean much to those who did not.

Nights in Rodanthe
(2008)

Terrific tear jerker
It was my wife's turn to pick the movie. I grumbled and reluctantly agreed. Well! I enjoyed it immensely. It's sad, human, realistic, romantic and picturesque. The cast is small but Diane Lane shines out magnificently. The setting on the Outer Banks was unique, colourful and dramatic. It is a reasonable length. The sex is tasteful. The sadness is overwhelming but not overdone. A chick-flick, yes. But one this male fan of war and history enjoyed immensely as he tried to conceal the tear in his eye.

Red Sparrow
(2018)

James Bond with credibility!
If you like spy movies, exotic locations, beautiful women, nasty bad guys, luxurious settings and great camera work you will love this film. I knocked it down from a 10 to 9 only because of its length. It runs over two hours and drags out the ending. But it's still full of action' suspense and sex. Although the sex is very graphic --- and I do tend to be something of a prude in these matters --- it still was tastefully done. It also catches the atmosphere of both Moscow and Budapest --- I've visited both --- even though nothing was actually shot in Moscow. This will be a satisfying and well spent couple of hours whether your interest is espionage, creative film, ballet, excellent acting or intense drama. Call it James Bond with credibility!

Il portiere di notte
(1974)

A real let down
I like old movies and I like war movies. This looked like a really great old war movie. It is (choose one) boring, confusing, complicated, illogical, uninteresting, pretentious, pointless, unrealistic, disappointing, confusing. (Oh, what the heck, choose 'em all. Even add a few more.) In its favor, there are bits of interesting but still unexciting cinematography here and there Fortunately I recorded it on a DVD-RW. Next time that disc is used, I hope it will be with a moderately good movie. Even wiping the DVD didn't eliminate the foul odour of a real stinker.

In Which We Serve
(1942)

Superb!
This may be the best war movie ever made. I've seem it several times over the years and it never loses its appeal. What is most amazing is that it was done in 1942, a time when Britain was struggling for survival. It's hard to believe that ships and men could be diverted from action at such a time. But the result is a solid, accurate and realistic film with fine performances and stunning photography. (Some of it is actual war footage.) The black and white images add to its impact. (Somebody has said that World War II was a war fought in black and white.) It undoubtedly boosted morale in Britain and generated support for Britain in the US. But despite its propaganda value, we are still left with a film masterpiece. (Crazy thought as I write this review... Did either Hitler or Leni Riefenstahl, his widely acclaimed photographer, ever see it. And how would they have reacted?) It's fine motion picture that has more than stood the test of time!

Masterminds
(2016)

Funny but faulty
There are a few laughs here and there, mostly of the pie-in-the-face school of humour. This is a silly movie about a serious crime, the real-life 16-million dollar heist of an armored truck. Hardly the basis for what is essentially a slap stick comedy. If the producers thought that was an original twist, it didn't work. Perhaps they might have had better luck with the humorous aspects of the Hindenberg explosion or writing snappy one liners for Al Capone. Yes, I laughed a few times. But I also pondered the perversity of casting crooks as comics.

Earthquake Bird
(2019)

Remarkable and refreshing
Netflix has broken the monopoly of Hollywood style and has demonstrated again and again, with various foreign productions, that there are other standards and traditions of movie making. In recent days I have watched Polish, Spanish, British, French and Russian films, each with its own style and characteristics. This one is Japanese with the overtones and subtleties one might expect of that school of filmmaking. It's an odd murder mystery/love story, with compelling cinematography, delicately effective lighting and a constant undercurrent of subtle tension. Dialogue is in both Japanese and English. There are intriguing shots of Tokyo, night and day. This is a very beautiful example of Asian art and culture that may be misunderstood and rejected by those with provincial tastes.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream
(1988)

Interesting and enjoyable
I was astounded to discover that this movie was done in 1988. I assumed that it was a new release. (But then I had forgotten that Martin Landau had died in 2017.) From a perspective of the eighties, it certainly was far ahead of its time in style and technique. It's fresh, funny and frank! Tucker, played by Jeff Bridges, tends to get on your nerves with his obsessive energy and optimism. Maybe Tucker was like that. But at times you wish he would just get out of the scene. Nevertheless it's a fascinating and well done glimpse of a brief period of automotive history. And the old cars which turn up all through the film,, not just the Tuckers, are a treat for the eyes.

Spitfire
(2018)

Spectacular documentary
Never have I seen so many "tens" for a movie. I have added one more. This is a spectacularly well done documentary, blending historic footage with superb and dramatic colour shots of surviving Spitfires. (There are still about 50.) It covers the history of this historic warplane from its conception in the thirties to its phasing out and replacement by jets. There are meaningful, thoughtful clips of the few Spitfire pilots still alive. I am a war buff and have watched many documentaries about both world wars. This may be the very best of them all!

The Laundromat
(2019)

A Cynic's Delight
If, like me, you are a cynic, you will love this work. It is odd, unconventional, unpredictable, funny, serious, creative and very cynical. Some of the dramatic and cinematographic effects are brilliantly unique and effective. And, of course, if Meryl Streep is in it, you just know it will be worth watching. I'm still not sure why they called it "The Laundromat" --- something about "laundering" money? --- no matter --- it's a unique and eminently watchable film.

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