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The Fall: Beauty Hath Strange Power
Episode 3, Season 2

Oh, for goodness sake ...
So, Stella Gibson knows that a hostile journalist is trying to get dirt against her and has already disclosed the name of her hotel in the newspaper. Yet she leaves her private journal - with details of her thoughts and doubts - on the bedside table, where any of the hotel staff could pick it up and sell it to the journalist. She also leaves her laptop lying out, instead of locking it in the room's safe. The latter would be considered gross misconduct by any organisation, and be grounds for dismissal.

It's lazy plotting, where the writer wants to plot to go in a certain direction, then has the characters act illogically to make that happen.

Now, please, will someone stab Paul Spector in the neck so we can all get on with our lives?

The Fall: These Troublesome Disguises
Episode 1, Season 2

It's a pretty good show but ...
... this episode does stretch credibility a little. Do we really believe that a six year old girl - in Belfast! - would greet an intruder, in the middle of the night, on the stairs of her how with "Who are you?" Really?

Like the crimes of Paul Spektor, these lapses in credibility have escalated as the the series has gone on.

I'm hoping that the show will level out and fly right ... let's see ...

Surviving Jeffrey Epstein

How can it be slander when it's true?
The first point I want to make is - contrary to the assertions of another reviewer here - this is NOT an "anti-Trump piece". Trump's name is NOT called out repeatedly. Yes, he, along with Melania, is pictured in several photos with Epstein. As is Bill Clinton. There are several other luminaries pictured with Epstein throughout the program. So it's not like Trump is singled out. What is more telling is that Trump is pictured at all, and it's not more widely known. It's hard to believe that any of these famous folk had no inkling of Epstein's extra-curricular activities. You'd think famous people would be more cautious about who they associate with and who they're pictured with ... unless they're sure there will be no consequences.

More importantly, what stood out for me is how so many young women, from so many different parts of the United States, have all told essentially the same story. Epstein clearly had his tried and tested methods that "worked" for him, regardless of the physical and psychological damage caused. But then, we know that abusers lack empathy, like all psychopaths.

This is not a comfortable story, and some people - notably Alan Dershowitz and Alex Acosta - don't come out of this very well. But the stories of the abused women are heart-wrenching and deeply affecting. And it's deeply disturbing that a woman - Ghislaine Maxwell - could be so instrumental in facilitating any abuse of this sort, let alone the epic level of abuse seen here.

It's also concerning that the authorities appeared so reluctant, initially, to do anything about Epstein. In the scenes where he is being questioned by prosecutors, he seems so sure that he's untouchable. I guess we'll never know why he felt so confident. Just as we'll never know where he got the tools to carry out his suicide, considering how careful prison authorities are to remove all laces, belts and other items they could be used to hang themselves. Not in this case, apparently ...

The Umbrella Academy

Sadly, terribly over-rated ...
I had this show recommended to me by people whose opinion I respect ... but I think my trust may have been misplaced. I'm on episode nine, and I'm constantly slack-jawed at just how dumb the characters in this series are. Topping the list is Ellen Page as the completely insufferable Vanya. Was there ever a more self-centred, self-pitying piece of work than Vanya? The endless scene of her murdering nanny after nanny because she doesn't want to eat her oatmeal ... was that supposed to make us feel sympathy? Well, that sure backfired, didn't it?

Then there's ... oh, wait. I'm not done with Vanya yet. So Leonard Peabody manipulates her into manifesting her powers, by reading Sir Reg's notebook. The same notebook that Vanya finds under Leonard's bed, but doesn't read for two episodes?

Then there's ... oh, never mind. Suffice it to say that I'll watch the last episode, chalk it up to experience, then give Season Two a miss. There's other stuff I'd rather watch. Maybe with better storylines ... and acting.

I liked the chimp, though.

Dark Phoenix

No, it really is the worst X-Men movie ...
Do not believe the reviewers here who tell you this film is being unfairly criticised and that it isn't the worst X-Men movie of all. It really is.

I cannot find anything positive to say. I'll give Sophie Turner the benefit of the doubt and entertain the idea that she has simply been given bad direction. But that's the kindest explanation I can give.

Like many others, I'm astonished at how you can take the most emotionally resonant X-Men tale of all, and turn it into this flat, unempathic dirge. Simon Kinberg, you should be ashamed. Return your fee immediately.

Thankfully, Disney appears to agree and have bought Fox to put an end to this rogue franchise (at least, that's what I'm telling myself). I'm hoping that they'll leave it a couple of years and then have Marvel Productions re-boot the whole franchise ...

It's Chris Claremont I feel sorriest for ...

The Great Hack

No surprises here, except for one
All the points made in this documentary are good, but hardly anything we haven't heard before. There are many companies out there - not just Cambridge Analytica - who use our personal data to persuade us to do things we might not normally think of doing. We know that Facebook uses our behaviour on their platform to serve us ads they think will interest us. My wife can be sitting next to me, browsing a fashion site on her laptop, and on my Facebook feed ... within seconds ... an ad will pop up for that same company.

The surprise for me here is how completely unwilling to accept any accountability for their actions participants like Britanny Kaiser are. Like the scoundrel who claims they've done nothing illegal, while we're all shouting, "But you knew it was wrong!", Britanny and others don't feel they have anything to answer for.

It's also interesting to note the disproportionate number of reviews of this documentary on IMDB that rate it 1/10 and declaim against its bias. You might almost wonder if it were a coordinated campaign to discredit the views put forth that using personal data in this way breaks EU law - specifically GDPR - that is in place to protect All Of Us (not just liberals, people!) from precisely this kind of exploitation.

Just saying ...

Nick Fury: Agent of Shield

Come on, it's not that bad ...
I'm an old-school Marvel fan. My Nick Fury was a hard-bitten, cigar-chomping Sergeant who ran a multi-cultural commando platoon in WW2, later a CIA Colonel who fought the Hate Monger (in reality Adolph Hitler) alongside the Fantastic Four in 1963, then turned up as the one-eyed director of SHIELD in 1965.

The Samuel L Jackson version is a 2002 construct created by Mark Millar for the Marvel alternate universe series The Ultimates. That version didn't fight in World War 2 and is not, technically, part of the main Marvel Universe canon. I guess the opportunity to actually cast Jackson in the role proved too great a lure for the film-makers, so they conflated the two universes.

This version of Nick Fury really does not deserve the hate from the other reviewers here. It really isn't that bad. The Heli-Carrier is great. All the supporting characters are here: The Contessa, Dum-Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones (thought he's morphed from a bugle-player into a scientist) and Burt Lancaster look-alike Clay Quartermaine (though he dies in the first few minutes). And Fury actually chomps a cigar all the way through.

I like the weird Hydra agents with their shaved heads and Matrix-style sunglasses. I loved Strucker's creepy daughter Viper, obviously channeling the sadistic Fah Lo See, portrayed by Myrna Loy in Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). I was glad to see the SHIELD agents' trademark black leather jumpsuits. And it's got The Hoff as Nick Fury.

Couple of small points - the junior agent Pierce should have been the boy-scoutish Jasper Sitwell from the comics. The Contessa should have had the fetching white streak in her hair. And instead of Viper, I'd have love to have seen Madame Hydra ... but you can't have everything.

Don't get me wrong ... this isn't even close to the level of the more recent Marvel movies, but it's not the worst of the other Marvel screen adaptations of the same period - The Punisher (which scored higher on IMDB) doesn't play as well. Blade, also scripted by David Goyer, fares a little better, but all in all, I quite enjoyed The Hoff as Nick Fury.

Get Out

The plot just doesn't work ...
There are many reasons that you might find Get Out unsatisfying or worse. Many here have pointed out that far from being ANTI-racist, Get Out is actually a pretty racist story ... simply reverse the racial types of all the characters and you'll immediately see just HOW racist.

It's also impossible to hypnotise anyone against their will, but this a movie, so we can just about let that one slide.

No, for me the real problem is that the script-writer doesn't seem to know what's going on in his own story.

So if Andre (the guy we see abducted at the beginning of the movie) is under strong hypnosis to be the "property" of the Amitages' elderly neighbour lady, and the flash of Chris' phone releases him (momentarily) from the hypnosis, then fine, I can live with that.

And judging from their odd behaviour, it seems as though the Armitages' two "servants" Walter and Georgina are also under the same kind of hypnosis.

Where it all starts to go wrong is when we're shown Jim Hudson undergoing surgery of have his brain removed. The plan is to pop his brain into Chris' body, right?

Then it's revealed that the same process was already performed on Walter and Georgina. It turns out this pair are actually Rose's grandparents, their brains transferred to donor bodies.

So my problem is ... which is it? Are the victims hypnotised, or are their bodies receptacles for white people's brains? See, it can't be both. A sudden flash might - plausibly - release a victim from hypnosis, but it sure as heck can't release someone from a brain transplant.

Chris' camera flash at the end of the film, that snaps "Granpa" back to his regular self, is just plain lazy writing that does't follow the rules the plot has itself set up.

Breaking the established parameters of the story just cheats the audience and that's a real shame because, with just a little more thought, this silly error could have been avoided.

Worthy of a Best Screenplay Oscar? I don't think so. Which is a pity, because I'd have loved a deserving horror movie to win.


Like watching paint dry ...
Well, there's two hours of my life I'm not going to get back.

Just what Hadzihalilovic was aiming for remains a complete mystery. Attempts to place the story in the context of a recognisable universe would just be a waste of time. All I could see was an endless string of sophomoric metaphors for growing up - butterflies emerging from chrysalids and the senior girls dancing for an unseen audience while wearing butterfly wings. It's not subtle.

Then, at the end of the movie, the oldest girls are taken to an idyllic complex with fountains and boys. Is it a strange breeding program in a dystopian future. Who cares?

Based - it says here - on a novel by Frank Wedekind (he of Pandora's Box fame), I can't tell if Hadzihalilovic's film strays from the source material. I won't be seeking out the book to find out.

Absolutely, categorically not my cup of tea - and it's certainly not in the same league as Tarkovsky's works, as some here have suggested.

Last Shift

Supernatural "Assault on Precinct 13"
It's not a bad horror film. But not brilliant, either. It's as if the director saw a screening of John Carpenter's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and thought, "What if ..."

Juliana Harkavy is a bit too pretty to be taken seriously as a rookie police officer, but she sure makes up for it with her acting chops.

There's lots of cool POLTERGEIST style chair-stacking and door slamming ... and a lot of the time, you're not sure what's real and what's illusion - but that all adds to the fun. And the light go out rather too often.

But overall, a rather good ghost tale, with more than enough scary moments and out- and-out jumps ...

Overall, pretty good horror flick ...

Eric Clapton: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Sublime ...
An absolute masterclass in how it should be done. Eric Clapton's light hasn't diminished since those heady days of the Cream back in the late 1960s, and here he is at 70 years of age to demonstrate that for some people getting older is just getting better.

Clapton's acoustic rendition of "Layla" is a complete joy and there's also standards like "Hoochie-Koochie Man" and "Crossroads" to keep the older fans happy.

With an excellent line-up of backing musicians like long-term Clapton collaborator Chris Stainton (the dad of my wife's childhood friend) and Paul Carrack, the concert features a varied and eclectic playlist with superb vocal backing from the gorgeous Michelle John and Sharon White.

It doesn't really come any better than this ...

Attack the Block

Attack the movie if you must, just not what you imagine the movie to be
I always like to check out the other reviews before I submit my opinion of a movie on IMDb. And what I found while checking through the other reviews of ATTACK THE BLOCK here is that if the reviewer likes the film, everyone else tags the review as not helpful, and if the reviewer hates the film, usually taking the film's plot points out of context or just plain misrepresenting what happens in the film, then everyone finds the review helpful.

Here's the thing - the question is, "Was the above review useful to you?" Is is NOT "Do you AGREE with the above review?" Right, now I've set the scene for everyone here to find my review not helpful, I'll press on ...

I like ATTACK THE BLOCK ... a lot. I liked it when I first saw it on Channel 4 in 2012 and I've watched it again a couple of times since, the most recent being last night. It never fails to entertain me.

I will however take issue with a couple of the other reviews here ... for example:

"The girl they tried to rob and rape comes asking for seconds". Nonsense. No one tried to rape Sam, at least, not in this movie. The reviewer might not like the characters - I don't like them much either - but no need to try to prevent others from watching the film by misrepresenting what happens on screen.

Another reviewer says that having the protagonists not apologise for mugging her "drives a huge wedge between them and the audience". But to do that would have been lazy writing on Cornish's part, turning essentially irredeemable characters in to "tame" cuddly nice guys. This kind of inner city feral teenagers are not nice people. They are what they are, not what you'd like them to be.

The same reviewer says that "The police are especially hard done by, they are portrayed as totally corrupt and not to be trusted under any circumstances". This is simply not true. The only two police officers who have anything to do here are the two who arrest Moses for mugging Sam. Which he did. We saw him do it. If he claims he's an innocent victim of a brutal police force ... WE know he's lying. So how are the police hard done by? I'm mystified.

Same reviewer finds "disturbingly strong misogynist atmosphere" because "The only criticism they (the boys) face is from weak female characters who are unable to defend themselves, and who rely on the various male gang members for protection from violent outsiders." Gee, I dunno, looked they were doing okay, when Tia and Dimple take down an alien with a standard lamp and an ice skate. Didn't need much help from the boys ...

A reviewer from the US says, "we're supposed to not like these street punks at first, and then admire them as they redeem themselves". Nope, that's only in Hollywood movies. I don't think Cornish expects you to like these characters any better by the end of the movie. But what we do see here is a glimmer, the slightest chance, that these characters might be able to turn their lives around. What we don't know is whether they will take the opportunity.

A reviewer from South Africa says, "The dialogue was apparently authentic, but it sounded made up, like the droogs' language in A Clockwork Orange." Yes, the dialogue IS authentic. I live in Tower Hamlets (on the north side of the river from Oval) and that's exactly what the feral teenagers talk like. So I'd say the issue isn't with the dialogue, it's with the reviewer. It only sounded made up to that reviewer. So they're essentially criticising Joe Cornish for being accurate.

But enough ...

ATTACK THE BLOCK is just exactly what it looks like. A low-budget, cleverly-written alien attack movie set in the inner-city, deprived area of South London. The lead characters are products of that environment. Marginalised teenagers who have somehow become convinced that education has nothing to offer and that the only way out of their situation is low-level crime and, very likely, an early death. They're not heroes. They're not redeemed by the events of the film. You CAN not like them, and it's doesn't make any difference. But they are characters I recognise ... raw and authentic. I wouldn't say they're Real, because they're aping the mannerisms of US rappers, but that IS how the kids down my endz act.

Don't take it so seriously. ATTACK THE BLOCK is not a searing social document. It's not a hard-hitting indictment of our times. It's just a bloody great sci-fi action movie. Stop criticising it for what it's not ...

The Hunger Games

Not the most original film I've seen ...
If you want to know what happens in THE HUNGER GAMES, watch any of the following movies:

Most Dangerous Game (1932, based on Hounds of Zaroff), A Game of Death (1945, based on Hounds of Zaroff), Run for the Sun (1956, based on Hounds of Zaroff), Bloodlust (1961), Lord of the Flies (1963), Naked Prey (1965), The Tenth Victim (1965), Deliverance (1972), The Woman Hunt (1973), Turkey Shoot (1982), The Running Man (1987), Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987), Deadly Prey (1988), Death Ring 1992), Hard Target (1993, based on Hounds of Zaroff), Surviving the Game (1994, based on Hounds of Zaroff), The Pest (1997), Battle Royale (2000), The Condemned (2007), The Tournament (2009).

In Time

Robin Hood meets Logan's Run
Like most of the other reviewers here, I have to concur that IN TIME is a great idea in search of a decent story. Despite a compelling High Concept behind this project, the writers just don't seem to know what to do with it.

The main issue is that nothing really happens, other than JT runs around robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, just like his late father.

Then there's the heavy-handed allegory, comparing a world which runs on time to our world which runs on money ... as Leona Helmsley once famously said, "Only the little people pay taxes."

But allegory alone doesn't make for compelling storytelling ...

Sadly, IN TIME is a bit of a Waste of Time, really ... I think I'll just watch Bonnie and Clyde again.

Girls Girls Girls!

Full supporting programme
Several decades ago, when I was but a youngster, cinema-goers in the United Kingdom expected a full supporting programme when they went to the pictures. So they'd show up around 7pm and then would sit through a B-movie, then a newsreel, probably made by Pathe, perhaps a couple of cartoons - Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny, then a short documentary ("Visit exciting Cleethorpes"), the infamous Pearl & Dean advertisements and finally, around 9pm, the main feature.

This kind of thing was still going on in the 1960s when I first began going to the local ABC or Odeon.

And this documentary, GIRL, GIRLS, GIRLS, was exactly the kind of documentary they'd serve up between the B-movie and the main feature. It was pretty much a programme-filler. Nobody came to the movies to see the documentary.

Of course, this was shot in colour. Back then, television was all monochrome, so the novelty of seeing a documentary in colour gave it some curiosity value. And this one was about models and dancers, and back then, we thought it was okay to ogle young girls frolicking around the screen, however innocently they did it.

Briefly, the "plot" follows three young girls from the Home Counties who come to London in search of glamorous careers. One begins as a photographer's assistant, trains at Lucy Clayton's modelling school and becomes a showroom model. Another trains as a dancer and lands a job in a London nightclub. It's all kind or twee and a little bit precious. But riveting as a snapshot of what London looked like in 1961.

So the other purpose these documentary fillers were serving was as a training and proving ground for the movie directors of the future. The big studios (this one was produced by United Artists) would churn this stuff out to fill programme slots and assign their young, promising directors to see how they would handle schedules and film crews.

But the most interesting thing is that this was directed by Michael Winner, who would go on to make many terrible feature films, the most famous of which were the DEATH WISH movies with Charlie Bronson.

There's hardly any chance of seeing this kind of cinematic curiosity these days. This one turned up in a late night slot on SKY ARTS channel shortly after Michael Winner died. But don't worry, it's really only of interest to the idly curious.

Dhobi Ghat

This is not a "Bollywood" film
I do enjoy love blockbusters. The last Indian movie I enjoyed was GUZAARISH. Yes it was sentimental, but I appreciated it for what it was, just the same.

DHOBI GHAT is a different animal altogether. This is much more like the sort of movie that might win an award at the Sundance Film Festival. I still haven't finished watching it (it's running as I'm typing this) but I wanted to organise my thoughts about the film right away.

I think DHOBI GHAT is brilliant. It's powerful, but subtle. It's cleverly constructed and it forces you to think. And like Life, it's sad, but with hope ...

It's not escapism. And I respect the heck out of Aamir Khan and his talented wife Kiran Rao for constantly trying to break out of the Bollywood straitjacket and do something different and worthwhile.

But brilliant as Khan is, he can't do it all by himself. So, come on Bollywood. Give the guy a hand. Make a few more movies like this and show that you can make lots of different kinds of movie, and not just escapism all the time. Widen and grow your audience. It has to be good for the industry.


I just realised something important about this TV show!

I've just seen the final episode of Season 2 of BRAQUO and something just dawned on me ... but first:

Other reviewers have said a lot about the outstanding quality of this French TV show. None of them are wrong. This is about one of the best cop shows I've ever seen (and I'm including THE WIRE in that comparison). BRAQUO is unrelentingly tough, brutally bleak, and edge-of-your- seat thrilling. I've lost count of the number of times I've said, "Well, I did not see that coming." And the essence of a superlative thriller is that it should be full of surprises. BRAQUO does not disappoint.

Within the first few minutes, you'll completely forget you're reading sub-titles so gripping is the story in front of you. I'm hoping and praying that Hollywood won't attempt a remake and make a complete balls of it.


Anyway, here's what I just figured out:

Eddy and his team are The Fantastic Four! I'm convinced of it. And Olivier Marchal has got to be the biggest Marvel fan. It's clever and it's subtle but it's there. Eddy is Mr Fantastic, no question. Rox is Invisible Girl, obviously, Walter is The Thing and Theo is The Human Torch - literally, given the ending of S2, Ep 8.

You can extend it further and say that Roland is Dr Doom. And maybe Colonel Dantin and his guys are the Frightful Four - the darker flipside of Eddy's group - but I don't want to stretch the metaphor.

So - under no circumstances pass this by - it'll be the best 12 hours you ever spent watching TV.


The twilight world of de-mobilisation
Edward Dmytryk was one of the most reliable of workman-like directors working in Hollywood from the 1940s to the 1960s. He was responsible for classics like FAREWELL MY LOVELY, THE DEVIL COMMANDS and THE CAINE MUTINY. CROSSFIRE isn't the best film on the Dmytryk CV, but even a so-so Dmytryk movie is better than most other directors' on their good days.

The plot revolves around a group of men recently released from war-service in the US Army, so recently that some of them still wear their uniforms. After an afternoon's hard drinking, a man the soldiers meet in a bar is murdered. It looks like one of the soldiers, Mitch Mitchell (George Cooper), did it, but the police flounder when it comes to finding a motive. The soldier's sergeant, Keeley (Robert Mitchum) is convinced the suspect didn't do the crime and sets out to uncover the true killer himself.

The always-terrific Gloria Grahame plays an embittered bar hostess who might be able to give Mitch the nearest thing to an alibi he's going to get. Not sure I like Gloria as a bleached blonde, but the look suits her character exactly.

Mitchum's performance is even more laid-back than usual and you get the feeling he thinks he's slumming it in this low-budget picture. But his presence still contributes some gravitas and focus to the story.

The fact is that it's not much of a mystery. You'll probably figure out who the killer is first time you lay eyes on him, but even so, I enjoyed watching the plot unfold and seeing how men who fought together show such loyalty to one another despite having little else in common. I'd quite happily sit through this again ...


When a bad cop goes good
BODYGUARD is a taut little thriller directed by Richard Fleischer in the early years of his career. At a trim 60 minutes, it packs in more plot than modern movies do in their two-hour running times. I especially enjoyed Lawrence Tierney in an infrequent good guy role - here he's Mike Carter, a cop with a nasty temper who gets himself fired for slugging his commanding officer. He's then approached to act as a bodyguard for an ageing widow who runs her late husband's meat-packing plant. Though he's grim-jawed throughout, and doesn't display much sense of humour at all, never mind sardonic wit, the film's noir trappings have lead many to label this a noir picture.

However, lacking a deadly female leading the hero into all kinds of trouble and with no typically gloomy noir ending, I can't put this movie in that pigeonhole.

The heroine is the sunny and all-American Priscilla Lane in her last film. She'd earlier made quite a splash as the fiancé of Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) in the madcap comedy ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, and here plays the faithful and supportive girlfriend of Tierney.

There's not a lot to dislike about this film. Carter doesn't have much personality, but he doesn't need it to solve the case. The other cops are a bit one dimensional and the family at the centre of the mystery don't have a lot to do. But it clocks in at 4 seconds under an hour, and its very brevity is more of a plus point than a liability. Try to catch it if it turns up on TCM. It's a fine object lesson in economic storytelling.

Captain America

No Jack Kirby going on here
Captain America was far and away my favourite hero when I was growing up in the 1960s. A lot of this was do do with artist Jack Kirby's dynamic drawings of Cap in the Marvel Comic Tales of Suspense. I especially enjoyed the war-time setting of the comics and the hero's battles with his arch-nemesis The Red Skull. When CA joined the Avengers, I bought every one of those comics, too. All this is by way of saying I was (and am) a major fan of the character.

It wasn't until years later, as I was getting more into movies and hunting down classic Hollywood serials, that I got to see CAPTAIN America.

Now, this serial has taken a lot of stick on this site for not following the comics ... but I have less of a problem with this than some people here.

Yes, the plot is a bit repetitive - but folks, it's a serial. You're supposed to watch it one episode a week. It's going to look a bit cheap, because the budget was tiny. It's going to have second-grade actors, because A-listers would never agree to appear in serials. This was where the studio tested out new talent and put old actors (and stunt men) out to pasture.

As serials go, it's one of the better ones. I was astonished at just how much the stunt men in this throw themselves into the fight scenes. How these guys weren't hurt, I'll never know. The direction from John English (who, incidentally WAS English and was responsible for all the best serials of the period) it very slick and Lionel Atwill (one of the great b-movie actors) is excellent as the villain - though he does seem to forget his lines from time to time.

All in all, one of the better serials of the 1940s - great fun if you fast-forward past the lengthy episode recaps. And I don't mind a bit if it doesn't follow the comics exactly. What comic book adaptation does? This serial is quite enjoyable enough to stand on its own terms.


Heartless explores difficult territory
I really liked the idea of a horror movie set in East London - where, coincidentally, I live. Seeing Jim Sturgess' character Jamie mooching around streets that I walk on my way to work was a lot of fun.

And Philip Ridley attempts to do something different with the genre, trying to mix supernatural and social conscience. It kind of almost works, but like so many movies in this subject-space, it all goes a bit to hell-in-a-handbasket in the final reel.

For me the ending is too much of a cop-out. I was hoping Ridley was going to come up with a better solution to the story than what we got. Very disappointing for the "demons" to be just hoodie, ASBO thugs after all. So I was left thinking that Papa B and Belle were just figments of Jamie's imagination. Now maybe that wasn't what Ridley was trying to put over, but that was what I was getting.

What we're left with is a Scooby-Doo type story, where the demons of Bethnal Green just turned out to be "old man Clanton, the creepy caretaker in a mask."

And, Philip, you'd have gotten away with it, to, if it hadn't been (etc, etc) ...

Manilow: Music and Passion

Will make you a fanilow!
This is a pretty good movie version of Barry Manilow's legendary Las Vegas show. It starts off a bit sluggishly, to be honest, with a couple of lesser-known songs, but starts to pick up a lot by the time you're fifteen minutes in.

Pretty soon the hits begin to roll thick and fast - though the great man takes a few moments out around the two-thirds milestone to give the audience a pretty cool disco megamix.

Honorable mention goes out to Barry's terrific backing singers, who seem to be able to do it all - sing, dance and generally be brilliant.

I think I read somewhere that Manilow won a well-deserved Emmy for this piece of work.

Definitely worth a look if it shows up on TV ...

Java Head

Always wonderful, Anna May Wong excels
This is a fairly ordinary tale of a romantic triangle, elevated to an A picture by the presence of Anna May Wong, a gifted and tragic American-Chinese actress of the 1930s.

The plot involves rivalry between seafaring trader families and internal squabbles between brothers, one who wants to "modernise" the firm with steamships and opium smuggling, and another who is decent, in love with a local girl yet marries a Manchu princess ... yup, Anna May.

I kind of get the impression that the script for this film was re-jigged somewhat when the producers knew they had Ms Wong. Consequently, she seems to have wandered in from another film. The brief flash of pre-code nudity seems strangely out of place, but it's interesting how much more liberal the movies of the early 1930s can be.

In this picture, AMW's regal bearing and striking looks dominate the screen whenever she's on. Though it's not her best picture by a country mile (I reserve that for DANGEROUS TO KNOW), any Ms Wong is well worth a look.

The Strangers

A plot in search of a point
It doesn't matter how well or how badly a film is made, in order for it to be worth making in the first place there needs to be a point to it. Otherwise you're left with something full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, to quote the Scottish play.

In dramatic writing, the point of a story is referred to as The Theme. It is the story's power- supply, its very reason for existing. Of course, having a theme, even a good one, in mind when you write a story is by no means a guarantee of success. But one thing's for sure, if your story doesn't have a point, then there's NO WAY that story will be good. Because there's no way for that story to make a connection with its audience.

For example, to take the last few films I've watched, all of them had a point ...

THE KING'S SPEECH: it's about courage. MEGAMIND: it's about redemption. REDBELT: without honour, you're nothing ... and so on.

For the first hour or so, THE STRANGERS was developing nicely as a scary movie. But once we were into the last couple of reels (do films even have reels any more?) it was making less and less sense. Finally, it turned out that THE STRANGERS wasn't about anything at all. It was just a series of random events that added up to less than the sum of their whole. The title characters have no motivation, the protagonists don't learn anything from the experience. No one changes - all the characters have exactly the same mindset at the end of the film as they did at the beginning.

Now you could argue that this is the same as real life. In reality, people rarely learn anything from their experiences, their characters hardly ever change, they're pretty much the same people at 40 as they were at 10. But films aren't about imitating reality. They are a highly stylised version of reality. Reality as we would like it to be, I suppose.

Of course, not every movie has to be uplifting. I mean HARRY BROWN was as depressing as hell, but it made the point about the random violence of society's underclasses far more powerfully than THE STRANGERS could hope to. I don't think THE STRANGERS was even trying to make that point.

So based on that, THE STRANGERS was a complete waste of time for everyone involved - film-makers, actors and audience. I think I'll give THE STRANGERS 2 a miss ...

Innamorato pazzo

Ornella Muti ... whew!
I first saw this movie in a cinema in Milan when it came out - I'm pretty sure it was early 1982, rather than 1981 - and although there were no sub-titles (my Italian is rudimentary, at best), the movie was pretty easy to follow ...

It's essentially a low-brow take on ROMAN HOLIDAY, with the gorgeous Ornella in the Audrey Hepburn "runaway princess" role. Celentanos' contribution, as the"cool" bus driver with all the answers, is entertaining, but I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why this lugubrious, slightly over-aged and balding guy was such a super-star at the time in his native Italy. Maybe it was something to do with his massively successful earlier career as a pop-star ...

Muti, on the other hand, commands the screen whenever she's on. Granted, she's not the best actress in the world, but the camera loves her and her sunny on-screen persona pretty much carries the film.

My DVD copy of this doesn't have English sub-titles either, but even so, it was a lot of fun to spend 100 minutes in the company of one of the most beautiful women in international cinema.

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