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A moving portrayal of the life of a tortured, but ultimately triumphant, genius
I found many of the reviews here overly harsh. The use of "flash-back/flash-forward scenes" which could be construed as "anti-American" (in a movie launched by 'Amazon Productions'!) was ill-judged. (The view of 1945 Hiroshima as some kind of Eden-like idyll was just silly/uninformed, while portrayal of the mock-up town to be destroyed in a test blast in the 1960s could have been replaced by footage about "Tsar Bomba" detonated by the Soviet Union in 1961 which remains the most powerful human-made explosive of all time". To get back to the core matter of the film, however, I though the acting of the two principals (particularly the ever-reliable Ms. Pike!) was superb. I was also very glad to see the brilliant Anya Taylor-Joy playing one of Marie's daughters (after I had just watched her (Joy) dumbfounded in "The Queen's Gambit" (some o the finest television I have seen in months, if not years!) I imagine she must be set to become an absolute mega-star (even though only 24 (TWENTY FOUR!) years of age!!!) The infinite obstacles thrown in Marie's path (although, to be honest, a good number of her own making due to her abrasive and somewhat narcissistic character) are shown very clearly, as are her means of overcoming them and going to win TWO Nobel Prizes as a WOMAN and yet also raising two children (who BOTH went on to become world-leading figures in their respective fields (and some "flash-forwards" covering Eve would have been nice!) Overall, therefore, in my view perhaps not a great film, but certainly a very good one and one which I am sure I will watch again on some future occasion.

The Southern Star

A mess - only redeeming feature is the footage of wildlife
The only reason I watched this dross was because I saw the magic name "Orson Welles" in the list of actors appearing (of which more below). To start on a (the only really!) bright note, the footage of wildlife is very good indeed (although it feels as if this was taken from elsewhere and when the actors are anywhere near real wildlife (apart from the tame ostrich), it consists of dummies/props (Segal and the plastic "crocodile" in the river and Andress swimming quietly past a wallowing herd of hippos at a distance of a few feet in a river (fat chance, she would have been dead in about two minutes, killed by what are actually THE most dangerous animals in the whole of Africa - forget lions and cheetahs!) Apart from the quality of the photography, the NUMBER of animals in each shot is also very impressive; massive herds of hippos, elephants, prides of lions, herd of ostriches etc. I fear this shows how much wildlife has been lost between when the film was made (1969) and now (2020), as nature programmes never seem to show most animals in those numbers these days! To move on to the human actors; these are largely as are to be expected. I always expect VERY little indeed from George Segal (who must have been one of THE luckiest actors of his time, with everything resting on his photogenic looks), Ursula Andress (eye candy embodied) and Ian Hendry (ALWAYS playing every role in precisely the same way). A disappointment was Harry Andrews. I usually find him a magnetic actor to watch and one who, no matter who the lead star is, seems capable of stealing every scene he appears in. In this case, however, he goes WAY OVER THE TOP and his booming, laughing, lecherous, somewhat sadistic interpretation just did not work for me. Which brings us to the figure of Welles; absolutely huge/grossly obese at this time (as in "A Ferry to Hong Kong", made shortly before) and obviously just "winging it" in terms of putting any life at all into his part (even though this is admittedly very slim and he does not even appear until about half way through the movie). I felt really sad at seeing him having to take parts in such dross as this, particularly remembering that this was only a few years after two of the (in my view) finest films he ever made: "Chimes at Midnight" (which virtually everyone must agree is a masterpiece) and "The Trial" (which some people (e.g. Charles Higham) certainly do not regard as a masterpiece but which I do in terms of style and cinematic finesse). As Charlton Heston (who starred in another of Welles' undoubted masterpieces, "Touch of Evil") once said in an interview, instead of wasting his enormous talents on dross like this, Welles should have focused on finding a patron or sponsor who admired his work (although being Welles, of course, he would probably never have accepted his position in such a relationship for long in any case!) A very final thing I found abysmal: the MUSIC/soundtrack is beyond horrendous -cheap muzzak, recorded at ear-splitting levels for much of the film and thrown in at what mostly seemed totally inappropriate moments! Overall. a REAL turkey and one I am guaranteed never to waste two hours watching again in my life (even with Welles in it)!

Tatort: Wenn Frauen Austern essen
Episode 542, Season 1

Zurueck in die Mottenkiste!
Easily one of the WORST episodes I have ever seen . "They don't Make them like this anymore." Got sei Dank!

Tatort: Ich hab im Traum geweinet
Episode 1,121, Season 1

Absolutely awful
Easily the WORST episode we have seen in months, if not years. Unacceptable in ALL regards (script, acting, direction, sound, camera work). Only consolation is that it is almost impossible to imagine any future episode being worse than this!

PRIME JAPAN: Nihon no kokoro ni deau

An in-depth look not at the surface of Japanese society/culture but "under the bonnet"
Unlike the other reviewers (to date), I enjoyed this series very much and found it both splendid to look at (with one exception*), entertaining and yet also very thought-provoking an d a real homage to one of the most highly developed cultures in the world. I had selected it to watch fully expecting it to be a "run-of-the-mill" travelogue type of affair dealing with the usual topics of geisha girls, sumo wrestlers and the Bullet Train. Right from the start, however, the series is anything but that, with in-depth investigations of aspects of Japanese life such a sushi, sake brewing, Japanese confectionery (!) and the Japanese love of cats! The presentation is certainly quirky and why each episode had to end with a cheesy 1960s song I am not sure, but this is more than outweighed by gorgeous photography and settings. (*My only real objection was that someone in the editing department had been really sloppy and inserted English sub-titles in WHITE to the sections of each episode (of which there are a good many) which are in Japanese in the original. OK when the background is black/dark, BUT when it is light/white? DOH!) Apart from the latter slip, however, an enjoyable series of programmes who want to LEARN seriously about Japan (and particularly the importance of Zen underlying its culture) as opposed to sitting through a "simple-to-digest"/little brain power required travelogue.

Babes in Toyland

Equally as yawn-inducing as most to the feature-length films the Boys produced
As is well known, Stan and Ollie made two crucial career mistakes. The first was not retaining rights/future income options on their films, meaning they did not make a dime when their shorts were re-shown on (pre-colour) TV in the US and UK in the 1950s and (as the recent "Stan and Ollie" release showed) meant they were forced to go "back on the road" at the close of their careers when they were both old and, in Hardy's case, severely ill. The second was abandoning their 30 minute shorts (or, as with glorious "Sons of the Desert", just over 60 IF they had a totally first class script and supporting actors around them) and instead trying to adapt to a conventional 90 minute feature film. I personally have found nearly every one of these I have seen boring, outdated, sentimental to the point of inducing nausea and very poorly directed. The scenes between the ones with the Boys in (and why on earth would anyone want to watch these things these days without them???) are packed with second-rate actors signing third-rate songs in what are usually fourth-rate story lines. This film has many of these qualities as well, although it is raised above what I regard as the career nadirs as such horrors as "Swiss Miss" and (even worse!) "The Bohemian Girl" by a couple of factors. Firstly, the production quality is very good and the artistry behind the "Toyland" sets is of a high order (although the money had obviously run out when it came to designing the ones for "Bogeyland" which are on the ultra-cheap side!) Secondly, there is ONE scene which is superb and this is towards the end when the "Army of Wooden Soldiers" comes alive and this is done with absolutely first-class animation which is worthy of Disney at his (or, of course, rather, his studio's) very best! The gliding motion of the "Soldiers" and obscure camera angles made me wish this sequence had been extended far, far beyond what it was (although, most unfortunately, the sequence is very short-lived and the "Soldiers" are soon replaced by standard actors in uniform). Apart from these two aspects, I can find very little indeed to commend about this film, although I suppose some (VERY) young viewers might derive some amusement/enjoyment from it around Christmas time. Otherwise, as with "Swiss Miss" and "The Bohemian Girl", it really will remain a "once in a lifetime" viewing for me, I am afraid!

Il gattopardo

A masterpiece of cinema
One of the greatest films ever made and, like a long novel of the 19th century by a master writer (which it resembles in many ways), a piece of work which simply has more to offer the more you view it. Definitely NOT a film for an audience which wants fast-paced action and everything explained/laid out in the clearest possible manner with no "loose ends" left to worry about. (Cardinale says (in an interview which was included in the DVD of the film I purchased) that the film was more or less a total flop in the USA (with some in the audience not being able to accept Burt Lancaster in any role outside a Western!) and one can easily believe it.) If instead you want subtlety, psychological drama and insight into reactions to revolutionary times with acute social commentary, this is certainly one to watch (again and again). Apart from these aspects, the film is also just stunningly beautiful to look at with some magnificent "set pieces" (the street battle in Palermo, views over various Sicilian landscapes and, of course, the 40 minute-long scene of the ball which comes at the end of the film. Delon and Cardinale also bring enormous acting talent to bear in their roles, although the full honours must go to Lancaster. This film proves beyond any doubt whatsoever that he was one of the finest screen actors there has ever been and how, like Bogarde, for example, he never stopped striving for new roles/aspects of acting to develop until the very end.

The Draughtsman's Contract

Definitely one for Pseuds' Corner as far as I am concerned.
Gave this 3/10 (on a par with my rating for something like John Wayne's "The Green Berets" or Laurel and Hardy's "The Bohemian Girl" - i.e. about as dire as it can get). The good news is made up by the costumes (especially the hats!), music and photography/imagery (like walking around inside a Gainsborough painting!) Otherwise, pure rubbish as far as I am concerned; LONG, boring, pointless dialogues between people speaking in full, interminable sentences and with a "plot" which may have involved a murder (or not - I really could not have cared less after about half way through!) but does involve a very nasty, brutish and sadistic final scene (the purpose/reason for which also entirely escaped me!) And all this even before mentioning "The Statue" - even Monty Python could not have sent up that piece of filmed junk. Given the swooning, adoring reviews which a number of reviewers have awarded this, I am obviously either (a) a complete philistine or (b) "missed" the whole "message" and need to re-view the thing again (or six times?) in order to "get it". NO, thanks. I sat through this excruciating equivalent of having a tooth pulled in the (forlorn) hope that it would get better before the end (and that anything having an actress of the quality of Janet Suzman in MUST have a lot going for it somewhere!) In the end, all I felt was cheated and that two hours of my life had been spent to no purpose whatsoever (as with the other turkeys mentioned at the beginning). Once is more than enough for me, thank you.

Tatort: Borowski und das Glück der Anderen
Episode 1,086, Season 1

Excellent episode of this never-ending series
An episode Fassbinder would have been proud of. Keeps you on the edge of your seat to the end. Bravura performance by the female lead actor!

Early Man

Brexit means clay animation
This is the third Aardman/Park offering (after the short "A Matter of Loaf and Death" and "The Pirates") which did not work for me at all and, as with the others, I found myself bored after about half an hour. I found very little to laugh at (only "You have not eaten your primordial soup!" plus the very final visual gag at the end with a cure rabbit (brought over from "Curse of the Werewolf")) in marked contrast to any number of real bouts of laughter at any of the episodes in the early series of "Shaun the Sheep" and, of course, the three original Wallace and Gromit shorts. Secondly, after a promising start, the "plot" turned out to be as predictable and foreseeable as anything which could be imagined and just left me wanting to see the final credits roll (in the hope of seeing some nice cheeky/anarchic ultra-short inputs (largely disappointed; the only one of any note was the two dinosaurs with names paying homage to the original Mater of stop animation!) What really bugged me, though, was the "message" being sent to the youngest viewers watching this. Never mind the simply stupid conveying of ignorance (Good Luck indeed to anyone who sets off to "mine bronze"!), but what really turned me off was the image of a plucky little tribe driven from their green and pleasant land by enemy forces with funny accents (French and, in one short scene, German) heading a militaristic, fascistic regime with advanced technology and fixated purely on economic exploitation. The fact that Park felt obliged to bend his knee to PC considerations in some regards (female football players plus a token dark-skinned member of the tribe) just shows up even more clearly in my eyes the narrow and quite nasty subliminal 'message' going on for most of the length of the film. If, as seems increasingly likely, Park is unable to recapture the sustained whacky innocence and hilarity of the early works, then he should follow in the steps of Pixar and sell up (and transfer his technically brilliant team - rating is given very largely to reflect their work!) to Disney or some other conglomerate and find other ways of occupying his time.


The title used for the English-speaking release was more correct!
I was disappointed when I first saw this film (i.e. compilation of the TV episodes and released on DVD) as, given the original title, I had assumed it would be a biopic covering the whole of Schiller's career and, particularly, of course his years in Weimar and collaboration with Goethe. In fact, Goethe only gets named a few times, never makes an appearance "in person" throughout the whole film and the latter's final shots are of the coach taking Schiller off TO Weimar! The title under which the film was released in English-speaking markets of "The YOUNG Schiller" was thus much more accurate as it covers his years from childhood to being a struggling young playwright trying to gain recognition (and for much of the time literally just to survive physically!) in Stuttgart. When I saw the film for a second time, thus not expecting any Weimar or Johann Wolfgang, I enjoyed it much more. The lead actor gives a tour de force performance (and fully deserved the Best Actor award he apparently achieved) and the film presents in very graphic and moving ways just what a series of bitter struggles (against court politics, envy, intrigues, penury verging on complete destitution, his own willfulness and lack of discipline (costing him love, health and (through his pig-headed estimation of his own worth) even income. The fact he does survive and sets off for the journey at the end which was to make him one of the greatest Germans who ever lived (a fact testified to all the more by the fact that such miserable and pitiful regimes of puny figures like Goebbels and Ulbricht were desperate to claim him as "one of their own") is a testimony to the spirit called up so effectively of "the Ode to Joy" in what is probably the most moving scene of the entire film). I am now looking forward to a third viewing at a future stage as well!

Swiss Miss

First time I have seen the funniest acting in a film presented by a St Bernard dog
I watched "The Bohemian Girl" some months ago after having recorded it (together with this offering) from a TV channel which specialises in showing old black and white films and which was showing a season of Laurel and Hardy films (shorts and feature length). I was left so dismayed and downhearted at the sheer awfulness of "The Bohemian Girl" that I could not facing watching this (also the object of many adverse reviews) immediately afterwards, fearing what it would do to my standing as a fervent admirer of Laurel and Hardy for the best part of fifty years! I finally summoned up the courage to do this, however, and, most regrettably, found this to be almost as dire as "TBG"! First of all (just as with "The Girl"), there are the absolutely ghastly, atrocious and instantly forgettable third-rate songs performed by fourth-rate singers with which the film is FAR too interspersed. As soon as each song begins, you just want it to end and be over with as soon as possible so that the people who form the only possible reason for you wanting to watch this junk can appear. Equally as regrettably, however, even the appearances by the Boys are well below par and almost all of their scenes were lacking in invention, pace, new gags and even basic humour, I found. From the very first scene with them in and their drilling holes in the floor of the "cheese shop" right through to the very final scenes of "the Gypsy songs and dances" (dire, dire, dire), I just failed to find them funny and most of the gags (object falling at irregular intervals on Ollie's head, the pokes in the eye, the double-takes etc etc. were all just stale and lacking in humour. The low point of all (among many) was when they wee carrying the piano over a chasm and the "monkey" appears - just totally cringe-worthy. The ONLY scene I enjoyed was when Stan was trying to get brandy off the St Bernard -and not because of Stan, but because of the great training the DOG had obviously undergone! An experience to be forgotten as quickly as possible and for which the only antidote is a double viewing of "Sons of the Desert"!

Pardon Us

Not as dire as "The Bohemian Girl" (nothing could be) but still well below par
Further proof that the boys should never have progressed beyond the 30 minute/short format except when they had guaranteed gold on their hands ("Way Out West" and (above all!) "Sons of the Desert"). This offering just goes on and on and never really raises the kind of belly laughs you can get by the score just from watching a golden short like "The Music Box". The gags seem laboured (Stan's loose tooth ceases being funny after about the second occurrence) and even James Finlayson's double-takes seem out of place ("teacher"to a "class" of ultra hard-boiled convicts sitting sedately behind school desks and behaving like ten-year school children?! Some of the script writers had VERY strange notions of what prison life was/is like!) The pits, though, are reached when Stan and Ollie "hide out" among negroes on (where else?) a cotton plantation. You cannot really blame them/the script writers, the director etc etc for conforming SO utterly with the morality of most of the people of the time but you DO have to recall this was also the decade when Paul Robeson was appearing on screen and Orson Welles was casting all-black productions of 'Macbeth'! Some civil courage/backbone would have been welcome as opposed to stereotypical portrayals which would have delighted KKK members when the film was shown in cinemas they frequented and would not have been out of place in "Birth of a Nation"! Finally, the editing of the version I saw (claimed to be 'fully restored and remastered') was just a total mess, jumping from scene to scene without any transition/rational links and breaking the (in any case) minimal story line. No, overall, watching this was a sad and dispiriting experience (and one I shall certainly not repeat willingly.) WHAT a shame that the greatest comedy combination there has ever been wasted their time on such things.

Mrs Mandela

A tour de force of acting by the lead actor
Saw this totally unexpectedly as I had missed it the first time around and the BBC put it out (with virtual no prior notice!) on the evening of the day on which the death (in real life) of the title character was announced. We were absolutely stunned by the acting of the lead actress who manages to cram so many feelings and emotions into just 90 minutes! She manages to portray every aspect of Mrs Mandela's life one can think of; the vulnerability and yet the core of steel running through her, the need for love and yet the unlimited ability to hate which develops, the mother who ends up instigating the killing of a young boy, the woman of enormous charisma and ability who is forced into "second place", the wife and mother who is abandoned and endures torment and degradation on scales which can hardly be imagined and YET can still emerge with head held (very) high and still refusing to be cowed, the woman who can gain the reverence of a whole township and appears assured, confident and determined, whilst fighting demons (not least out of a bottle) in her own private space etc. etc. All the other actors (even though turning in highly commendable and memorable performances in most cases) just pale in comparison with this master class in acting. Should be absolute required viewing for anyone wanting to begin to understand modern world history, the life of a tremendously gifted, but also deeply flawed, individual and, above all, wanting to see acting on the screen at its very best.

Tatort: Im toten Winkel
Episode 1,051, Season 1

Very moving and insightful episode
No idea why this episode has such a low overall rating (to date). I think it took real courage for the producers to deal with such a troubling and immensely emotionally demanding topic. Just another example (together with stagnant wages, zero hours contracts etc) of how advanced postindustrial countries are facing precisely the same type of problems.

Vera: Darkwater
Episode 4, Season 8

A rare thing in a 'Vera' series - a boring episode
I think this series has been generally lower than earlier ones and a certain degree of "setting in a rut" appears to be developing. To cap it all, I found this final episode in the series as being something I never thought I would say about the whole 'Vera' canon, just simply boring/non-engaging. Far too many characters involved (not one of whom was particularly interesting or engaging) and there were so many turns and twists as the "true" character of the victim emerged that you needed a flow chart to follow the inter-connections and relationships. Let us hope that the writers use the break in between this and the next series to re-generate and get back on track!

Muppets Most Wanted

I thought it could not get worse after the "relaunch" film. Wrong!
I am happy for those reviewers who enjoyed this movie and were able to award it anything more than about 7. I personally found it flat, boring, uninspired and a simple travesty of what "The Muppets" meant when Henson was alive and at the helm. Indeed, the only reason I bothered to record and watch it was in memory of Henson and all those Friday evenings long ago when the TV series was broadcast and kept us doubled up with laughter and the anarchic and loony things undertaken by Gonzo, the Swedish chef, the boomerang fish-throwing 'juggler' etc. etc. (all of whom, very sadly, just had brief "walk on" roles in this compendium of boredom). I really cannot for the life of me think who on earth would want to sit through this a second time; I should think kids will be bored out of their skull by it, anyone coming across the Muppets for the first time must wonder what on earth all the fuss was about and veterans like me will be dismayed at what has become of what was once one of the most imaginative, fresh and innovative creative teams working in comedy anywhere in the Western world. After the appalling "relauch" film, this one plumbs even new depths and it must now surely be time to let the franchise just expire and pass over, leaving us with our memories of a great comedic past?

Miss Nightingale

First-rate TV drama/historical biography with a superb actress on top form
I saw this buried away in the "post-graveyard" slot of broadcasts for a new channel which is broadcasting "film history" scheduled for broadcast at something like 1.00 am. I saw the name "Janet Suzman", however, and immediately set the player to record as my experience has been that Ms Suzman's name in connection with any production (TV or film) has always been a commendation for first class work. My expectation was fully met as I found this production a totally first-rate piece of TV drama/historical biography at a level which I just do not think we would get from a mainstream UK television broadcasting channel anymore these days and, as nobody else has written a review in the 40+ years since the production was first broadcast, I thought I would express my appreciation and fill the gap at the same time! The first thing to say is that the production does NOT (as I had half- expected it would) focus just on "The Lady with the Lamp" and her work at Scutari in the Crimean War but rather covers her entire life from being a (very) young girl right through to just immediately preceding her death ( a triumph both for Ms Suzman and her make-up team!) What the film shows, rather than a heroine-worshipping piece of stock propaganda extolling the virtues of "the mother figure of British nursing" is that, in fact, Miss Nightingale was a FAR more complex character than that! In fact, it actually makes clear that her MAIN contribution to the development of British (and, in fact, Western) nursing lay not in patching up the wounds and stumps of wounded British troops in the Crimea, but, rather, much more in ploughing through volumes and volumes and volumes of statistics, reports, information, enquiries etc etc. so as to gain the evidence to present to Royal Enquiries and official bodies to bring about reform and change. The film shows her utter and total devotion to this, as well as her being, frankly, as "tough as old boots" in getting the recommendations she wanted across to officialdom (and making it clear that her insistence led directly to the premature death of a major male politician whom she (bluntly) used for this purpose! The fact that a "male" politician had to do this was, of course, de rigeur, in an age when women, no matter their level of wealth or education, were even denied the vote led alone leading parliamentary enquiries! The film is thus also a great tribute to Nightingale's importance in forwarding the status and rights of women in general as well. (The film also makes it clear that, while she had many male admirers and actually allegedly received three offers of marriage, she was not really "the marrying kind". The film in fact does even raise the question whether her attraction was not more towards women in other senses as well! I personally found this incredibly brave for a TV film made in 1974 (when people were still watching "On the buses" and "Carry on" films with their near-Victorian prudery and 'wink, wink' style of humour/addressing issues of sexuality!) and the producers/writer must really have been brave to do this! The film, by the way (rightly), does not come to any firm conclusion in this regard or in terms of most other aspects of Nightingale's life. What is does, however, magnificently do is to make clear that, infinitely far from the cut- out stereotypical Victorian heroine, she was a very complex, multifaceted and intriguing person and only an actress with Ms Suzman's huge abilities could have brought this out so well. (One final piece of praise also for the costume department which gets the clothing exactly right in every scene and ALSO for the people doing the ladies' incredibly complicated/intricate hair designs as well!) Very much to be recommended and just as watchable in 2017 as it must have been what is now 43 years (!) ago.

The Bohemian Girl

Absolutely ghastly. A life-long L&H fan but will never watch this again.
Have been a fan of the Boys for decades but had missed this one until a new TV channel specialising in "film history"/Goldie Oldies launched a L&H season and gave me the opportunity to view this one. Never again! Every single one of the "gypsy" scenes could have been omitted with no loss whatsoever (archaic/dated/tiresome drivel now but I cannot really believe that people paying to see this at the local cinema in 1936 would have found these scenes anything other than trite, poorly performed kitsch. The "songs" are only memorable for being worse than the one just before - no memorable melodies, delivered by third rate singers trying to compensate for their lack of singing ability by lots of eye work, hand clasping and upward gazing (probably asking (like me), "How much longer do I have to endure this?") I would love to say that the bits without the dreadful gypsy scenes are then pure gold, but I cannot. There are some quite nasty sides to this picture (child abduction (and therewith, of course, centuries of anti-Romany prejudice/hatred coming through), adultery (and Oliver's hen-pecked husband routine just comes across as simply disturbing/alarming in the way it is played here) plus what seems a little too much enthusiasm for flagellation (including (potentially) of a young woman towards the end!) and the very final scenes of torture being inflicted to raise a (very cheap) laugh at the very end). The portrayal of the Boys as conscious, deliberate thieves/pick pockets also jarred ill with me as one of their key features was always that of innocence/naivety which is retained here overall but cannot be squared with their resolution to set off and deliberately separate people from their belongings (again some anti-Romany feelings creeping in?) Even taking this out, however, and just leaving the Boys on their own and creating havoc, the film STILL has little to offer! Stan's routine of filling wine bottles towards the end is just awful, lacking in timing, innovation and simply flat, I found. Most of the other sketches are fairly flat as well and, overall, I must say that this is probably THE L&H picture which caused me to laugh least of all the ones I have seen (although I believe there are still some stinkers for me to live through in the coming season ("Swiss Miss" from what I have heard?) I believe the Boys were pretty useless when it came to money and were totally ripped off by Hal Roach and others, meaning they did not earn a penny when their films were shown (in black and white) on American TV in the 1950s (where, of course, they were adored and helped to win a whole new generation of fans of their work) and it would seem they were also sometimes pretty useless at choosing which films to appear in as well (and this one should certainly have been left to second-/third-raters from whom one would not expect anything better, like Abbott and Costello or The Three Stooges). Still, I am at least grateful that for every "The Bohemian Girl" there is a "Way out West" and "Sons of the Desert" and that, overall, the gold far outweighs the drivel/dross.

The Crown

Simply the best television I have seen in years
The series so far is a complete eye-opener and simply the very best television I have seen in years. The acting is superb, the scripts for every single episode I have seen to date (1-9) are magnificent and the on-location filming across the world is breath-taking. I had sat down to watch the first episode expecting a huge dollop of syrupy sycophancy, some sort of cross between 'Downton Abbey' and the innumerable series on "The Tudors" to which viewers have been subjected over the past few years. I could not have been more wrong and this is a truly 'adult' series in every regard which really penetrates like a drill into all of the characters shown and, in particular (as per the opening credits) shows how the institution of the Crown is like some remorseless machine crushing the individuality and personality of all those who come into contact with its heart. (One scene at the very end of an episode where Queen Mary appears in full black mourning (the very embodiment of death/the repression of life) before the young woman who is now Queen is a never-to-be-forgotten moment, but just one among dozens.) I fully expect this series will harvest numerous awards for acting, direction, script etc. (and music - massively effective use of haunting set classical pieces at key points) and fully deserves to do so. It has completely won me over to Netflix and, together with "House of Cards", means I now never watch UK terrestrial TV anymore and (with offerings of this quality available instead) cannot ever imagine doing so again.

Me Before You

As syrupy and watchable as they can get but I still have problems with the underlying message
No disclosure of the ending/spoiler, but just to say I think some people (like me) will probably have problems with what is the essential underlying message of this film (which is what brings my rating down from a 7 or 8). These ratings would be justified purely on the basis of the acting (particularly the female lead who easily 'steals the show') (while the other main roles are also occupied well too) and the gorgeous location filming plus great sound track. If you want to enjoy these aspects and view a classic modern 'weepie' (without going too much into what the ending of the film seems to me really to imply), then this is definitely one you will enjoy.

The Muppets

Best argument I can think of for NOT making a sequel
Dull, ponderous, packed with clichés, entirely lacking the creativeness , inventiveness, zaniness and general humanity with which Henson and his original team imbued the whole Muppet story. Instead, under the dead hand of Disney, we get yet another "road/let's put on a show/anyone can be anything at all they want if they really, really try!" piece of processed movie-making which does nothing at all to salute the unique creativity of Henson and co. After about half an hour, I found the only bits I was enjoying were the appearances by Amy Adams, whom the camera likes and who has real star quality as well as being a very good singer and dancer (classically trained, I suspect?) (Her male counterpart, Jason Segal, lacked all of these qualities and came across, like the movie as a whole, as wooden and lifeless). NOT the tribute to Henson I wanted to see and I can only hope that, out of respect for his spirit, this now really is the end of attempts to revive the Muppets and people go back to the VHS recordings of the originals instead.

The Spirit of '45

As to be expected extremely one-sided but well crafted.
An excellent film in terms of explaining both what the title says, "The Spirit of 1945" leading to the massive victory of the Labour Party in the UK general election of that year and also the roots of that victory. Loach (correctly) goes back to the end of the First World War and how the promises of "A Land fit for Heroes" was betrayed and millions of working men and their families instead spent most of the inter-war years (not just the so-called "Hungry Thirties") living in poverty and destitution. Their children were determined to build a better Britain and, as Loach shows, this feeling was also shared by many people from much wealthier backgrounds as well (in which bodies during the war such as the Army Bureau of Contemporary Affairs also played a significant role). Loach does not shy away from showing the weaknesses of the Labour Government's policies (e.g. very much "top down" and with no trace of the kind of Mitbestimmung which helped to rebuild West German industry in the same period), but he nevertheless paints far too positive a picture of what Attlee's governments actually achieved.

By going straight from this period (1945-51) to the arrival of "the Wicked Witch" (Thatcher) in Downing Street in 1979, he is able to skate right over how much the Labour Government had NOT accomplished and just how rotten much of British industry and society was by the early-/mid-1970s (and which provided the environment in which Thatcher could only have come to power.) The short-sightedness of union leaders, for example, in focusing purely and simply on short-term economic gain for their members and rejecting totally Castle's "In Place of Strife" proposlas plus "holding the public to ransom" on unlimited occasions in the 1960s and 1970s is simply ignored as not fitting in with the polemic.

In conclusion, watch this film to explain why the Labour election landslide happened, but if you want to know "what happened next", watch the 1959 comedy "I'm all right,Jack" as well. For every stalwart nurse and miner shown in Loach's film, there were unfortunately far too many "Fred Kites" leading their unions in the years after Attlee left office as well!

Withnail & I

I didn't get it either, but I suspect it is an age thing
You can admire the acting (especially of Griffiths and Grant; I tended to find McGann more irritating than amusing or enlightening), but that is about it for me, I am afraid and this otherwise had very little to appeal to an oldie like me. I have not got the faintest idea where the "scores of quotable quotes" others have referred to are to be found in the film ("I have had a fee ales" - not really Oscar Wilde, is it?) while I found the 'plot' (thinner than the side of a paper bag used to transport a cup of soup) lacking in any real interest or amusement, let alone insight. As regards the latter, I can only imagine this film would appal to early-/mid-twenty somethings who are in the process of saying good-bye to student life and are beginning to look back on this phase of their lives with nostalgia before having to think about such horrors of post-univ life as getting up at a set time, wearing a suit or trying to get a mortgage. If they enjoy it and find it "a modern British classic", good for them as I doubt, by the same token, they would find much in a film which meant quite a lot to me at their age such as "Electrical Glide in Blue". ("The moving finger writes.....")

The Plank

Has not stood up well to the test of time
Had found this one of the most hilarious things I had ever seen when originally viewed in the late-1960s/early-1970s and I had wondered for years why it was not shown more regularly on British TV. Finally got to see it again when it was tucked away at 11.00 pm - midnight on pre-Christmas viewing schedule. Having now re-watched it, I now know why it enjoys so few showings as it just does not cut it any more. Tommy Cooper is still hilarious (as he always was) just through his physical presence and personality and Jim Dale's appearances and the effects of these are also amusing. Otherwise, though, there is very little going for it. Most of the gags are so predictable you can see them coming miles away and the added tinned laughter others have commented on is just ghastly. The main problem, I found, though was that the TIMING was just atrocious to modern eyes. Sykes was very obviously trying to recreate ( could one say milk?) the heritage of classic stars such as Chaplin, Lloyd and, above all, Laurel & Hardy but does not come within five miles of their talent, especially the latter pair. I think any modern audience (of any age) will find more hilarity and deep belly laughs in virtually any Laurel &Hardy short than in this offering, which now really does belong in the museum of British comedy on film and is only really suitable for viewings by scholars of the genre and others like me (hence the rating) looking back on a much more innocent age and stage of their lives.

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