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Much Ado About Nothing

Shows Branagh how it's done!
This remains, for me, one of the best of this superb BBC series & certainly the best version of this particular play. This production saw no need to dress up the actors in ridiculous fake-military costumes (a vice Branagh shows off in all his productions, I know not why) or cut those parts which it didn't like (either do Shakespeare as he wrote it or write your own play!). Robert Lindsay reveals previously unsuspected Shakespearian talent & I would dearly love to see him take on some other such roles. He is superb in this, using his comic ability to bring out the humorous essence of Benedick & the beautiful Cherie Lunghi (who has never shown me a poor performance, be it in Shakespeare, Hornblower or even "A Touch of Frost") is a perfect partner, being both cuttingly witty & enticing -- enough to make any Benedick risk her barbs to chase her! Admittedly, Jon Finch isn't as good as Denzil Washington, who also showed untapped Shakespearian talent (a future Othello or even Iargo, maybe?) but he isn't actually bad. All in all, a joy to watch & a great introduction to Shakespeare's lighter works. Sincerely recommended.

The Path to 9/11

If you're seeking 100% accuracy, maybe Hollywood's the wrong place to look! Just enjoy the film, OK?
First off, let me say I'm not a Republican or a Democrat -- I'm not even an American, so I consider myself neutral. Anyway, the main thing I noticed following my reading of the anti-film reviews shown in the Comments section is that whereas so many Republican viewers complained about inaccuracies & mistakes in this film, there were very, very few errors reported in the 'Goofs' section. Strange, no? Could it be that the inaccuracies were those that disagreed with the opinions of the writers rather than reality? Anyway, anyone expecting ANY film to be 100% accurate is born to be constantly disappointed. Was 'Tora Tora Tora' (another film dealing with wasted chances to prevent a disaster) completely accurate? Was even 'Flags of our Fathers' infallible? No, & not even Mr. Eastwood would claim otherwise. If you want 100% accuracy (which might also disagree with previously held opinions), use an encyclopaedia -- though even these might upset the more politically chauvinist readers. Personally, I found this film interesting, provocative & providing plenty of food for thought. Well worth the watching.

The Manchurian Candidate

When filmmakers had courage & didn't rely on remakes!
Having sat through the 2004 version (which had even less right to the original title than the remade 'Italian Job') made me appreciate this fine film even more. Watching it again does nothing to reduce one's enjoyment. The power, originality & courage of this script, the fine acting (especially by Harvey & Lansbury) & the 'what if' thoughts this story inspires all make it one of those films that viewers are very unlikely to forget. OK, Sinatra was not a great actor -- but if acting ability was the criteria for being in films, the profession would be a lot less crowded! The best thing about this film is the lack of hysteria, the total calm, almost matter of fact way it plays. Being in black & white also adds to the impact. To summarise: if you haven't seen either the '62 or '04 version, watch this one first -- & stop there! If you've already seen the latest one, rent this classic & see how good things could have been!

The Manchurian Candidate

Shares the title but not the quality of the '62 classic (possible spoiler)
Just like the 'new' "Italian Job", this film's makers first took a trusty, classic film title & then struggled to find a way to use it in the modern world. Suddenly, a patrol brainwashed as Korean PoWs becomes a patrol brainwashed by an American company — surely hard for even die-hard conspiracy theorists to swallow. Just looking at the cast list tells you who the hero is, as Denzel Washington is so averse to playing bad guys (though he usually does a good job of doing so when he dares to try). Similarly, the bad guy, in line with well-accepted Hollywood tradition, has to be a foreigner, in this case a South African scientist — with no trace of South African accent. Similarly, why does a large American private equity company choose to name itself after a Chinese region — Manchuria? To summarise, the original 1962 film was a brave, worrying & compelling production, whereas this makes Oliver Stone's "JFK" seem like a documentary! Rent the original & skip this one.

Running Wild

If you want baby elephants, watch 'Dumbo' -- it's more realistic!
Let me start by saying that I grew up in Zimbabwe — not just in Zim but in the bush, & so I welcomed the chance to see the beautiful scenery of my homeland.

That said, let me add that I didn't finish this film, as it was made 'Bambi' look like the 'Dirty Dozen', for at least Bambi was reasonably accurate — the deer didn't get a job with NASA or solve the troubles of the world! The Zim scenery was beautiful, but then even Hollywood can't change that. However, the price the filmmakers paid to use that scenery (I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here) was too high. For example:

1. The way that the bad guys were mostly white. Yes, there are some whites at the top of poaching but there are damn'd few at the 'coalface' end, in the field! Racism is bad whichever way it goes.

2. I'm sorry to disillusion you, folks, but there are precious few North Americans even in African cities, let alone in the middle of the bush. The fact that the only 2 white folk in the district are both from across the Atlantic is pushing coincidence towards fantasy. That's like showing a film about a Mexican game park & the only 'gringos' are a Brit & a Norwegian! Not very plausible.

3. The facilities in the bush were all like some a safari holiday arranged by Abercrombe and Kent. I know they were too much like roughing it for the kids but in reality, anyone working in the bush has to put up with a lot less comfort than these guys did.

Poaching is a blight upon the face of civilisation & anyone who buys or uses ivory should be forced to work on an anti-poaching patrol for a while, as many of my school friends (black & white) did. Therefore, anything that publicises this evil should be welcomed. However, this film wasted the opportunity to do that, preferring instead a scenario whereby a modern day (& suitably PC) John Wayne type figure comes in & saves Africa.

A few well-chosen changes & a writer that had least spent time in the outer suburbs of Harare, if not into the bush itself, could have made this a worthwhile film. As it is, the Eurovision Song Contest would be preferable — if that's possible!

NCS Manhunt

The BBC lays another egg!
The BBC has made many great dramas, & David Suchet has given us some fine performances. Sadly, neither is true of this contrived TV series. The fact that no 'Technical adviser'is listed says a lot, as there is no UK police unit like the one featured in this series -- & hopefully never will be! The writers seem to have tried to transplant 'Hawaii 5-0' to the UK, but sadly, there are no sunny beaches or exotic ladies to distract us from the weak plot, paper thin characters, & total lack of realism. I watched this on BBC Prime in Thailand but after tolerating a couple of oh so predictable episodes, I would prefer to watch a Thai drama -- even though I don't understand a word! Do yourself a favour -- avoid this series & keep your fingers crossed that the BBC learns from its mistakes.

Red Cap

Good idea but spoilt by the 'trendies'
I agree that the idea of a cop series involving Military Police is a good one, & it must be said that when compared with other similar programmes, like the truly awful 'JAG', this isn't bad. I also admit that my own experience with the Red Caps was a while ago. However, I cannot believe that the MPs have relaxed that much. Military detectives with long, permed hair? Sergeants speaking to a Warrant Officer with their tie undone & their hands in their pockets? Basically, everyone on almost first name terms, regardless of rank. Sorry, but this seems to be an obvious case of someone who dreamed up a regular cop show & was then told to change it to a military setting. The interplay between the characters would work in a regular detective series, but not with the RMP. Some of the stories are good, the basic plot is sound, but this series needs to get more in touch with military reality.

Where the Spies Are

Not bad enough to be funny
I happened across this film whilst channel surfing late at night. At first, I thought it was a parody, a bit like 'Casino Royale' -- which Niven must be a lot more proud of! Sadly, I soon came to the realisation that this was not playing for laughs but wanted to be taken seriously. I will concede that Niven, Davenport & others do their best, but the wooden plot, corny lines & truly terribly dated music ruin any efforts by them. This film came out just a couple of years after "From Russia with Love" & is obviously trying to compete with the Bond series. Sadly, it fails miserably. Watch it if you have trouble sleeping, but only if you tire of watching the paint dry!


A film that gave me a general feeling of 'That's nice'.
This really is a classic Lemmon/Wilder film, officially a comedy but also very touching. One of the best things in this film is Clive Revill, who reveals an otherwise well hidden talent for comedy as the hotel manager. OK, I'm sure his performance is stage Italian & possibly (just possibly) rather exaggerated, but he underplays it nicely & is certainly the lynchpin of the film. In some ways, Lemmon's role in this reminds me of 'Missing', in which he brilliantly portrayed a man who slowly changes as he finds his old preconceived notions proved wrong. So it is here, as a very strait-laced, self-important and parochial American slowly finds himself becoming infused with the Italian spirit. All in all, a delightful film, both funny and tender, and one that gave me a general feeling of 'That's nice'.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

And the Temple of rubbish might be a better name!
Spielberg is undeniably a great director but this film is so awful that almost any film by any director would look good in comparison. The plot crosses the line from good yarn into fantasy, the mistakes they make whilst revealing their lack of knowledge about South Asia would horrify anyone less geographically challenged, & the naive way they make a Shanghai street urchin (whose language would make him more at home in Hong Kong) so devoted to American culture. barely acceptable in a kids picture but in a film whose rating makes it unviewable to most kids, no. The fact that Kate Capshaw had to beat over 100 other actresses to get this role makes me dread to think what the others were like! (I still remember her fake-fluent Japanese in 'Black Rain'!) However, even the best of directors have their weaknesses; Clint Eastwood had Sandra Locke & this film 'introdcuced us to the future Mrs Spielberg. I read that she had to learn how to scream for this film, but as she does very little else, what did she do for her screen test -- or maybe I don't want to know! If it's this or a film about paint drying, toss a coin!

Ghosts of Mississippi

A story that needs to be told, & is done so splendidly
I am a great fan of John Grisham novels and watching this, I felt as if I were watching a film of one of his better stories. After all, look at the cast. I have never seen the much-underrated William H. Macy or the ever-dependable James Woods give a bad performance, and they certainly don't here -- especially Mr Woods, who must have needed several hot showers after playing such a slimy role! However, the great thing about this film is not the undeniably great performances, it is the story. After all, this isn't a novel, it is true, a story that needs to be told repeatedly. Why? Firstly, to show that not every white in Mississippi is a racist; secondly, to show that happy endings don't just happen in old movies; thirdly, to reassure everyone who has faced injustice due to their colour, religion or background that justice can and does happen, but only when good people are willing to make it happen. Now before anyone accuses me of being some screaming liberal, let me point out that I am a white African, a race as closely (and excessively) associated with racism as Mississippians. Nonetheless, a murderer is a murderer, and so it is good to see the law punish one -- even if it took so many years!

True Confessions

Two greats at their best
I had high hopes for this film, with De Niro and also the rarely if ever disappointing Robert Duvall, two of the best actors around. I wasn't disappointed. This is a very understated, gently told story of church & police politics, of corruption, of brothers & of the way our decisions affect our future lives. As he so often does, Duvall steals the film but he has tough competition from the likes of Cusack (brilliantly cynical), Meredith &, of course, De Niro. I have watched this film several times & have even transferred it onto DVD so that I may continue to enjoy it. If you're looking for thrills or excitement, rent something else. But if you're looking for good characters, a believable plot & a strangely unforgettable film, I recommend this one.

The Russia House

A surprisingly non-cynical Le Carre story
As a great admirer of John Le Carre, I watched this film with high expectations & although the story wasn't the usual Le Carre (such as 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold'), I enjoyed it immensely. It is a combination of a good old-fashioned romance & a look at what happens when an ordinary man is brought into the world of espionage. Connery is very good as the boozy, world-weary publisher who considers personal relationships more important than Cold War one-upmanship. Michelle Pfeiffer, apart from being very pleasing to the eye as usual, was also pretty believable as the Russian trying to do the right thing. What's more, Klaus Maria Brandauer deserves an honourable mention as well. OK, the plot is complicated & sometimes hard to follow, as are most of Le Carre's works (& also, doubtless, the real world of espionage), but it is worth the effort. If you are seeking a simple good guy beats bad guy film, then don't watch this or any other realistic spy film. If, however, you want a story that manages to combine cynicism & romance, I recommend this one.

Spy Game

When will Hollywood do its homework?
This film had such potential & the acting wasn't bad -- although I still yearn to see Redford extend his acting repertoire by playing a bad guy! The basic plot, involving a world-weary veteran spy going out on a limb for his protégé, may not be original but is still pretty sound and also filled with potential. However, the shameful number of errors (as listed on another part of this site) & the unbelievable ending (which would make John Wayne blush) all contribute to make this the sort of film that would help you to sleep on a long flight. It does have its moments, although its premise that the old CIA was some sort of 'Lone Ranger' is hard to swallow. (Note the oxymoron on the certificate of appreciation Redford gets from the Director acknowledging his "30 years of honorable service" -- since when has the spy game been considered honorable, even by those whose career it is! To sum up, if 'Spy Kids' was too intellectually challenging for you, then maybe you'll enjoy this film. Otherwise, if your rental store has only 2 videos/DVDs, this & one showing paint dry, choose the paint!

Harry's Game

So real it's frightening!
I was over in Belfast not long after this film came out & although it was filmed in Leeds, it is so close to looking like Belfast that it always brings back memories -- good & bad. The acting is excellent, most of the accents authentic, the immorality of the bosses on both sides well shown, & the plot totally believable. There now seems a real chance of peace in NI but if ever the 'troubles' resume, this should be used to prepare anyone posted over there. Thoroughly recommended.

Point Break

Even Stallone might be ashamed of this one!
Forgetting for the moment Keanu Reeves lack of ability, there are too many errors or incredible (literally) scenes to make this film believable to anyone who likes their adventure films to be even slightly realistic. As a former skydiver, I found the airborne scenes too bad to even be funny. God help any viewer who tries to copy such fantasy stunts in real life! Also, as an ex-cop, I do NOT feel sympathy for a cop who finds it hard to stop a friend from violently robbing a bank. Feel guilty about people being in danger because you didn't do your job, yes! To summarise: if watching Keanu Reeves read a phone book turns you on, this might be a good film. If you thought Superman was too realistic, maybe this is viewable. However, if you prefer a good story with some degree of realism, avoid this one like a rabid leper!

Arlington Road

A potentially great thriller
I did enjoy most of this film, as it was well made & dealt with a subject that needs better coverage -- America's domestic terrorists. The story is good & the characters are mostly credible. I won't reveal the ending, which is very well thought out & surprising. However, I will reveal the one thing that spoiled this film for me, namely the terrible over-acting of Jeff Bridges. He begins well but the closer we get to the climax, the further over the top he gets. I had listed this amongst 'My Movies' but so bad was his hamming that I had to remove it. Tim Robbins was excellent, & if they ever remake this film with a more controlled actor, I will certainly watch it!

Canadian Bacon

A good laugh & some all too rare self-mockery
If ever anything deserved to be laughed at, it was the Cold War, & this is a good example of treating certain right-wing politicos in Washington as they should be treated -- as figures of fun. The idea of creating a fake war to help a president with failing popularity was later carried to the limit by 'Wag the Dog' but this was made all the funnier because of choosing Canada as a potential enemy. This film seems to be poking fun at Canada but anyone who's seen it soon realises that it's really poking fun at those south of the Great Lakes! This may not be the most intellectual comedy you'll ever see but it certainly won't be the worst!

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