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Holding On

I'd like to like it but it's just not that good
It's hard supporting low-budget British filmmakers when they keep on turning out films that just aren't good enough. For every London to Brighton, there are four or five Holding Ons on the shelf because they're not really worth releasing.

It's not all bad. There's a good opening shot craning around a sink estate that promises better to come. But it looks like they blew the whole budget on that and a similar closing shot. Consequently the rest of the film looks like it was shot in a hurry, with some shots having odd sightlines where the actors don't quite seem to be looking in the right place. The plot is very predictable and performances poor. It's possible that the behind the camera team may go on to do better, but next time they need a stronger story and to think how they will film it first.


Okay but not great
The hype will kill this film far more effectively than it's quality. It can't live up to it. Is it a bad film? No. Is it a great film? No. It's a good one with some big problems. The first is the script, which is TOO close to Frank Miller to work. You notice how shonky the plotting is, how laughable the dialogue is the moment it is read out aloud. Or in Butler's case, shouted at the top of his lungs. There are no characters, just poses. No-one to root for, no-one to boo. So you're left with the action and the look of the film.

The action is pretty good at first but not quite the great you hope for from the trailer. It's like everything is geared so closely to looking like the comic book that they forgot that means a lot of slowed-down or static shots that get a bit boring. Even more boring is the look of the film. Every shot in the film is washed out and rusty and that gets tired very, very fast. Apart from blood red in the battles that's all you get and you really long for something different just to break it up. It's the most boring use of colour in years. Taken with the animating out of many of the actor's features to touch them up to look more like cartoons it just blands everything out. Even when the singing goat turns up in Xerxes tent it looks a bit ordinary and samey.

So, some good battles but it never flies because everything looks the same and you don't care about anything or anyone that happens. On the Arnie scale, with Terminator being the tops, Total Recall being great, T3 being okay, Raw Deal being weak and Red Sonja being the pits, I'd give this a T3.

Children of Men

Fast food sci-fi dressed as gourmet fare but more TV dinner than fresh steak
Children of Men starts off looking like it'll be a rarity, a good Clive Owen film. It's not that he's suddenly learned to act, just that he's cast as a lifeless drone and that's about within his range. The premise is a bit been there, done that, with another future Britain that's sunk into the twin evils of repressive right wing xenophobia and terrorism, with infertility added into the mix as the raison d'etre. The lack of originality doesn't matter so much since like all "serious" sci-fi it's meant to be a mirror into our own times. What does matter is that the film becomes so predictable around the halfway point. Yes, it's another journey through a not-quite-post-apocalyptic landscape hitting every cliché from the Lazy Screenwriter's Book of Plot Points. Look, here's the ex-girlfriend to remind us of the hero's old idealism. Look, here's the aging hippy to show us how much things have changed. Look, here's the mad army officer to provide some threat. It feels too much like it's ordered from a menu and relies too much on the production design and fake documentary camera-work to sell a TV dinner as a fresh steak.

The film really falls apart in the end because no matter how right Owen is at the start of the film he's every bit as lifeless by the end because displaying emotions or growth just isn't what he does. You don't care about his character, the few amusing star turns get killed off early and you're just left with a big series of explosions and riots and shootings to wake up the audience who've switched off their emotions by then. And that end looks weirdly like a setup for Owen's next movie where he once again plays bodyguard to a baby people want to kill. At least that one looks like it knows what it wants to be, which Children of Men never quite does. Okay, but you've already seen it.


Like watching a drunken magician throwing up on the audience
Domino gets my vote for worst film of the year. Yep, even worse than Timbo Hines War of the Worlds because even tho the trailer made this look crap, unlike Timbo's turkey, there was enough about this one to leave us with some hope that Tony Scott smashes bloodily against the wall like a doll's head filled with tomato ketchup. It's the biggest piece of crap I've seen in years. Forget how laughably miscast KK is as the posh bird/ladette/bounty hunter, firing two obviously balsa wood machine guns at the same time because she's not strong enough to lift the real ones or talking in a stupid voice that no-one in Britain really has. Everything stinks. Richard Kelly's script is barely there, throwing up the odd bone in between the clichés: for all this subverting the biopic/action pic talk, it's a very, very conventional narrative and very predictably done. To hide this, Scott changes the colours from one shot to the next, over-exposes the film and cuts a hundred times a minute like a drunken magician trying to distract your attention. Even the Donnie Darko fanatics are going to have a hard time convincing themselves this is cutting edge stuff. I could go on, but I just don't want to relive any more of it. Mickey Rourke and Walken are okay but everyone else is just trying. Really trying.

In case you didn't guess, I hated it. Really hated it. Can't anyone make a good dumb fun action movie anymore?


Interesting failure undone by bad casting and editing
Lionheart - The Children's Crusade was an interesting find in a bargain bin at a video shop - a medieval epic that I'd never even heard of from the director of Patton, produced by Coppola and with music by Jerry Goldsmith. Looking it up on the IMDb, not many others have either: it only seems to have played a week in Detroit! Why? Well, the obvious reason is it's not very good.

Its got a solid script about a disgraced young French knight who finds himself leading a bunch of abandoned children to the Holy Land to join King Richard's crusade and coming up against Gabriel Byrne's disillusioned crusader turned child-slave-trader. But it often looks like chunks are missing, and the kids are pretty awful: Eric Stoltz very effeminate and uncharismatic as the lead, Dexter Fletcher irritating as the lovable Artful Dodger type and Nicola Cowper a one-woman petrified forest as the love interest - I've never, ever seen an actress stay as rigidly immobile or as impervious to emotion as this gal. It's like watching a beautifully made up corpse in early rigor mortis for 105 minutes. Only Deborah Moore seems to give it a bit of wellie as a tomboyish female whose far more manly than the hero.

Bits of it do work, and Byrne's dark knight character is genuinely interesting and gets all the best dialogue, but the main interest is Jerry Goldsmith's astonishingly good score, one of the best I've ever heard for an epic even if it disappears towards the end. Worth a look but set expectations on low.

The War of the Worlds

A tale told by idiots
Watching this truly bizarre, ultra-amateur videocam atrocity, I kept on being reminded of a not too bright school kid who has to write an essay about H.G. Wells' book by Monday. Friday he went to the pictures, Saturday he went to the arcade. Sunday afternoon he played footie. Sunday evening he did start to read the book, but by 10:30 it became clear he wasn't going to finish it, so he just skipped through it, jotting down the odd line from the one page in five he actually speed read. By the time he'd done that it was bed time. So he started working on the essay in the morning - using big, big letters and long spacing to hide all the gaps and try to make it look longer than it was. But he ran out of time, so he had to carry on writing it on the bus even though the kid next to him kept on throwing things at him and thumping his elbow. He was still writing it while the teacher was picking up the essays, so he ignored the last couple of chapters altogether.

The trouble is, this film isn't even that good. For all the phony reviews about how lovingly crafted and detailed this is, I kept on thinking that Timbo had only read the first three-quarters of the book in advance and was keeping everything, but everything in from that section in case it turned out to be important later. It's that clumsy. But when it comes to the end, it's suddenly very rushed, with lots of important bits missing because, if he has read them, he didn't really understand them.

None of which explains why this yawnathon is three hours long. You would have thought that in editing he might have realised how redundant most of the first hour is and cut it down to an economical 20 minutes. But no: if he shot it, it stays in, whether the actors' moustache blows off or not. And so we're 'treated' to a bizarre succession of shots that don't match, changing from one bizarre tint to another from shot to shot as scenes go on for what seems like weeks at a time past their natural lifespan. For a while this is so odd as to be funny, especially taken with the truly inept accents and the hopeless attempt to make 21st century Seattle look like 19th century London. Effects that have to be seen to be disbelieved and which even Georges Melies would have found clumsy and primitive add a few chuckles. But sadly most of this film is just an overlong walk through the same few backroads and fields past the same crudely paintboxed extras while the narrator tells us what we can see with our own eyes.

As this tedium unfolds, you veer between two opinions. The first is that the film is made by deluded untalented idiots trying their best but completely oblivious to their own ineptitude. But then another thought keeps coming more to the fore: that it is made by idiots who KNOW they have no talent but think the audience is even stupider than they are or, worse, that it simply doesn't matter how bad this film is. Just as long as they can get the thing into stores before the Spielberg film hits cinemas to make a fast buck, it doesn't matter what is on screen.

It's probably the former, but Hines rather dubious behaviour and conspiracy theories make you wonder about the real motives for making this film (contrary to Hines' insistence, filming did NOT start until after Spielberg and Cruise announced their version). For all the talk of being true to Wells, you can't help thinking that the bigoted author, who believed all 'congenital idiots' should be exterminated so that the intellectual elite could flourish, would have had a very permanent way of dealing with the deluded and inept amateurs responsible for raping his novel.

Clumsy, painfully inept and a complete betrayal of the ideas behind the story, this isn't worth even seeing for novelty value. Beyond bad, this is three hours of pure malice directed at anyone foolish enough to watch.

Il cartaio

Another dud from Dario
It's sad when influential talents go off the boil, but everything Argento has done since Tenbrae seems to have shown all the signs of a filmmaker who has lost interest but still has bills to pay. On the good side this is nowhere near as bad as Phantom of the Opera or Phenomena. Nor is it as mediocre as The Stendahl Syndrome or Trauma - it just aspires to be that mediocre.

Sleepless might have been a minor comeback - silly but with good set-pieces - but any ground gained is immediately lost with this tepid misfire. Low on gore, low on style, low on character, it's really just an outline for a movie that he hasn't bothered to fill in. Psycho killer kidnaps women and forces female cop with issues to play internet poker for their lives. Fill in the blanks film-making ensues, very dull for the first 80 minutes, almost interesting in the last twenty. But you don't need to see this film. It won't offend, it'll just bore.

Our Friends in the North

NorthEnders - The Greatest Show of Working Class Clichés on Earth
Looking at all the reviews here claiming this as the greatest British TV drama ever and looking at all the awards it won and rave reviews it got, I'm just left asking if there's another show out there called our Friends in the North, because the one I finally finished slogging through on video is a template for every bad I-wanna-be-Ken-Loach cliché out there. I can't vouch for the London scenes, which look as unbelievable as any of the amateur-hour post-Lock Stock gangster movies we slept through over the past few years, but the Newcastle scenes play like a bad joke - the Beeb drama department's version of the 'Thick Scousers' characters that Harry Enfield used to do in his TV show. Every possible cliché is ladled on with a trowel and with heavy handed dialogue that sounds like someone reading from a manifesto or a history book. The performances are also either incredibly self-important - Eccleston in the first of his humourless pompous leftwing stereotypes and McKee so smug you want someone to thump her stand out especially - or so over the top it's not even funny (yes, Malcolm McDowell, I do mean you).

Sure there are a few big themes, but they're swamped by the trite writing, dodgy performance (and bad old-age makeup) and blah direction. Forget all the raves. This is just an unconvincing, overlong timewaster, one of the great so whats? of British television.

Les yeux sans visage

Horribly overrated, frighteningly average potboiler
When people talk about lovers of foreign films being pseuds, I can't help wondering if Eyes Without a Face is exactly the kind of movie they mean. It's exactly the kind of film that if it were made in English - say with Vincent Price in the lead and Terence Fisher directing - that many of its supporters wouldn't hesitate to dismiss as pap, yet because its set in a foreign country and filmed in a foreign language is suddenly elevated to the status of cult classic when really its just a tatty piece of grand guignol that plays like what they used to call a 'quota quickie' in the UK.

The French setting is about all the novelty this film has going for it. It's our old friend the mad scientist (ok, mad plastic surgeon) killing various bit part actresses so he can get the bits of them he wants - their faces - to rebuild his daughter's disfigured face. No pace, no thrills, not much striking imagery until a couple of shots at the end, just competent but uninspired film-making. Its watchable but nothing special in any way, although the daughter's mask is strangely expressive. Did they use More than one for different moods? Strange to see early credits for Maurice Jarre and Claude Sautet here, but not worth it for their admirers.

Taxi 3

Possibly the worst French film ever made
In fact, this amoeba of a movie really might be the very worst film I've ever seen or ever will see, and even that's being VERY generous. Now I enjoyed the first Taxi movie, which had a sense of speed and fun even if there weren't many stunts. I even enjoyed Taxi 2 in its no-brainer way despite the worse direction (different director, held over for this one for some inexplicable reason) because it had plenty of good stunts. But this film really is like the filmmakers knew they'd have a guaranteed audience no matter what so decided to spend 83 very long minutes throwing merde at the audience to see if they'd eat it. It's that bad. No: it's worse.

It starts off with some badly shot stunts ripped off from Jackie Chan's Operation Condor that lead into our hero giving a James Bond figure a lift he'll never forget. Now obviously Pierce Brosnan's contract wouldn't let him do it, but they could have tried for Timothy Dalton or even Roger Moore. I'm sure if Roge was busy they could have got George Lazenby, who's done that sort of thing before enough times. But no, the joke falls flat because they get that epitome of suave sophisticated British espionage himself, Slyvester Stallone (dubbed badly into French) to do the part. Worse is that not only is this almost the best part of the film but it has the only stunts in the whole picture. It does lead into a very, very funny one-minute send-up of the new Bond title sequences that is genuinely terrific, but once that's over, turn off at once - you will not get the next 70 minutes of your life back and you will resent it.

It's horribly wrong on every level. The two stars don't even meet for 45 minutes, and when they do the charm is replaced with whining, there are no chases or big stunts - this from a film who's only reason to exist is car stunts - and a boring plot about Chinese villains disguising themselves as rollerblading Santas to rob Marseilles' biggest bank. But in the end, they don't bother, they go to Switzerland instead. The taxi follows them, the robbers get very easily arrested and the cop goes to hospital where the girlfriend he didn't notice was pregnant for 8 months is having a baby. The end. Add terrible, horrible mistimed 'comic' relief from Bernard Farcy playing a pompous deluded chief inspector and Bai Ling horrendously made up as the most repugnant racist stereotype of Chinese whoredom (sorry, there's no other description) in a hideously misogynist part and you've got a film that manages to be dumb, boring, pointless and offensive without ever passing 'vaguely interesting' along the way. When the best joke is a dumb comic relief black cop being run over by a car he's trying to commandeer because he's black ("It's okay, I'm used to it"), you know you're in the *beep* Never have I seen a film so lazy and with so much contempt for its audience, and I've seen three Michael Bay movies. THAT bad and worse.

Le hussard sur le toit

Great old-fashioned entertainment
The Horseman on the Roof has to be one of the most beautiful looking films I've ever seen, which is odd for a movie about a cholera epidemic.

Set in a beautiful summer in the mid-19th century, it follows Olivier Martinez's Italian in exile as he is chased across France by Austrian agents intent on killing as many Italian rebels as they can only for his pursuers to be outrun by a cholera epidemic that picks off friends and foes. Along the way his path crosses with various victims and survivors - a doctor who teaches him a neat disinfecting trick of setting your hands on fire, a cute governess, Jean Yanne's duplicitous peddler, Gerard Depardieu's paranoid mayor, and most importantly Juliette Binoche, who is determined to find her husband. Naturally they become travelling companions as they try to get through roadblocks and avoid being put into quarantine by the soldiers cordoning off the roads - a virtual death sentence - and eventually nearly become more. The film looks so good in cinemascope and so much of it is terrific than you can just about forgive the fact that the ending is a bit of a washout after everything that's gone before.

A really enjoyable old-fashioned epic, I'd definitely pick this up if it ever turned up on DVD uncut with English subtitles (the Miramax disc is typically cut by 17 minutes thanks to Harvey Scissorhands).

Yamakasi - Les samouraïs des temps modernes

Relentlessly average low-brainer
Yamakasi - Les Samourais du Temps Modernes is a step down the evolutionary ladder for Luc Besson's production company. Produced but not directed by Besson, who fired the original director, it's about a gang of extreme sports street kids who climb buildings for fun. When a hero-worshipping kid has a heart attack imitating them by climbing a very, very, very, very small tree, to show what socially responsible blokes they are they decide to get the $500,000 he needs for a heart transplant by robbing the doctors. O-kay... They then show how on-message they are by making up the shortfall by forcing the hospital doctor in charge of the care to pay it himself by threatening to kill him. So that's all right, then.

Cue lots of ingenious robberies, right? Er, no. Cue not much at all. One fun scene dodging a couple of guard dogs and one clearly faked rooftop jump shot from restricted angles and some limp jokes is really all. Forgetting the dodgy morality (it's okay to steal from doctors because they're all rich scum anyway!), this is weak stuff. Stylishly shot but like most Besson films light on character, plot and most of all action - not a lot happens in its 85 mins and there are really very, very few stunts. The main point of interest is that almost all of the main characters aren't white for a change - black, Arab and Chinese origins abound. But at the end of the day this has no more edge than BMX Bandits or an average episode of Byker Grove or even (according to my dad) an old show called The Double Deckers that The Children's' Film Foundation used to churn out.

Quatermass and the Pit

One of the best British films of the Sixties - genuinely
Quatermass and the Pit is a genuinely great screenplay, one of the smartest sci-fi films ever written because it deals with interesting ideas rather than stock effects. There are a few of them, some good, some bad, and the budget isn't always enough for the ambition, but the ideas are what carry this one - tying in colonisation, evolution, race memories, the Devil, hauntings and other theories alongside military and government closed-mindedness into a cohesive intelligent whole by not going for the sensational but sitting to down to think, "Now where could that belief in so many people have really come from?" The conclusions may be outlandish, but the logic is rational and the treatment straightfaced, and once it builds up its head of steam, it's not just compelling but also a little bit worrying - particularly when civilisation starts to break down in an extremely violent way. Andrew Keir and James Donald are excellent and Barbara Shelley manages to be a convincing strong female lead in a genre that doesn't usually allow them and also to look really good in red jumper and Wellie boots! Powerful stuff and highly recommended - there really is a lot going on here, and it has a strong story sense to back it up. Just remember: "We're the Martians now!"

Gong woo ching

Pretty near the bottom of the barrel - but do see the sequel
This is a particularly dire early Chow Yun Fat Hong Kong gangster movie that occasionally flirts with competence without ever going all the way. It's the usual good brother/bad brother plot, but it's rarely been done as shoddily as this. Danny Lee has little to do, Andy Lau isn't on top form here and only an underused Chow Yun Fat gets by on charisma alone. The film looks like it's been shot in a hurry (the first fight in the betting shop looks as convincing as a schoolgirl pillow fight) by people who'd rather be somewhere else.

No surprises, badly staged and pretty amateurish all round except for a last reel wedding shootout, its hard to believe this was a big enough local hit for a sequel, Tragic Hero. Even more surprising is that Tragic Hero is actually GOOD, focusing on Chow Yun Fat's fall from power as he is abandoned and betrayed - that one has style, flair and a bit of weight to it, as well as much better action scenes. But Rich and Famous is just a waste of your time.

Omnibus: Whistle and I'll Come to You
Episode 17, Season 1

Horribly bad stuff
I'd heard about how good this was for years. It even got a no-extras DVD release at full price over here because it's got such a good rep. When it finally got repeated on BBC Four last night, I actually stayed in to watch it (with digital TV you can't tape stuff while you're out: you have to have the channel you're taping on, which I guess is why it hasn't taken off).

I should have gone out instead.

It's terrible. Not just dated, tho I doubt this was ever much cop. No, it's both boring and laughable. There's 20 minutes of mumbling like a bad Erik Sykes silent movie before the plot starts, and then it's just Michael Hordern having trouble sleeping because he has dreams of being chased by a tea towel on the beach. Then - horror of horrors - the tea towel turns up in HIS BEDROOM! I've not read any of M.R. James' stories, tho one of them was the basis for the excellent Night of the Demon, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But the makers of this pretentious arty overlong piece of nothing deserve no mercy. This really is just junk.

L'armée des ombres

Not just Melville's masterpiece but one of the greatest films ever made
It took me a long time to track this on down (thanks to another IMDb poster), and I'd heard so many posters on the European Film board raving about it for years, so I was a bit worried it'd turn out to be a disappointment. Seeing it in unsubtitled french didn't help, with my French not exactly great. but, lucky enough, the film isn't too dialogue-heavy and even more lucky, it really is a masterpiece. How good? I'd actually put it down as the best film I've seen this year.

Part gangster movie, part documentary in its style, it's a great look at the doomed lives of a group of resistance workers in occupied France. No big movie heroics, no big explosions, just lots of tension and having to deal with the awful details, like killing an informer in the most practical way possible, each new job taking a little bit more of their humanity away, often losing their lives and making no difference. And the end caption revealing the fate of the characters really hit me hard.

Excellent performances too, especial kudos to Lino Ventura's weary and watchful lead and Jean-Pierre Cassel, but the whole cast are superb. And so many great scenes, like the improvised escape via a barbershop or the moment when Ventura gives away his last cigarettes to other prisoners because he knows they'll all be shot in a few minutes time. I can't speak highly enough of this one and really hope that Criterion will do this sooner rather than later - but why didn't the BFI release it with their batch of Melville DVDs earlier this year? So good I'm going to watch it again this week.

I definitely think a petition to Criterion is in order here!

Looney Tunes: Back in Action

The greatest animation/live-action comedy ever!
Mysteries never cease. This smart and hysterically funny film tanks spectacularly and the disappointing Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a blockbuster and Scooby Doo gets a sequel. Maybe people do get the films they deserve after all!

Joe Dante has always been hit and miss outside of the Gremlins films, but this is way up there with Gremlins 2 as his masterpiece. Unlike recent shorts, this recaptures the feel and insanity of the great Looney Tunes perfectly and Dante fills the live action world they inhabit when not making shorts with more in-gags than you can shake a stick at - and 90% of them are great. Yet critics despised it apart from the brilliant chase in the Louvre: maybe they were too dumb to pick up on the in-jokes? Even Steve Martin isn't as bad as they made out. And the film has a great score by Jerry Goldsmith too.

Terrific entertainment, one of the funniest all-round comedies I've ever seen!

Charlotte Gray

Underrated war movie
Charlotte Gray was something of a box-office disaster in the States, which damaged its reputation in the rest of the world. While it's not hard to see why American audiences didn't go for it, it's harder to understand the malice European critics greeted it with. It's a pretty good portrait of resistance infighting (the Communists are setup by the De Gaullists as liberation approaches), local collaboration (the schoolteacher gladly helps the Nazis root out Jewish families) and the nuts and bolts of resistance work. No great heroics or big setpieces, which is probably why it tanked: the big climax is more an emotional risk than the rescue audiences probably wanted. Performances are mostly good - Blanchett is much better than contemporary reviews would have you believe in particular. There are better films, but it's a good movie and for my money better than the alright Lucie Aubrac. I liked it enough to buy the DVD.

The Winter Warrior

One star is way too much for this garbage...
...but the IMDb doesn't have a no stars facility for movies. After seeing this fiasco, maybe they should consider adding one pronto.

On paper it sounds good. A Roman soldier has finally done his service and is returning home, only for his wife to be kidnapped by a group of drunken Scots with beer bellies in the kind of dress-up costumes you can buy at toy shops. He and a girl he rescues do stuff, other stuff happens and finally, after way too long, the bloody thing ends. If that sounds vague, trust me, it's a lot more thought out than this DV disaster. Bad acting in every part, bad direction and the odd bit of spectacularly inept 'action' that looks like it's been choreographed over the phone by a civil servant make this film look like the out-takes from an Ed Wood movie - I kept on expecting to cut away to Criswell or Bela Lugosi ranting on about puppy dogs tails, but sadly that would be far too interesting. The video photography is terrible too: it looks like they borrowed their mate Barry's camcorder but didn't quite know how to use it.

While I'd like to applaud the initiative of no-budget filmmakers who try to get their stories on the screen by any means necessary, this utter drivel is just so irredeemably bad that it's hard to feel anything but contempt for those involved - it's a hideous waste of their money and your time. Sad to say, this is the very worst film I've ever seen, and I doubt I'll ever see anything worse. It's just absolutely inconceivable that anyone could ever do worse than this.


Guillemin's the whole show
This is a classic case of great performance, shame about the movie. Sophie Guillemin is quite a revelation - in every sense - without ever appearing to do much or indeed anything. Here she reminded me a lot of Isabelle Huppert in The Lacemaker (only with much more nudity), with much of Huppert's brand of everyday sexuality.

Guillemin's a blank slate of a schoolgirl/model that men in crisis project their fantasies on to. She gives them her body but nothing else, and seems constantly detached and immune to surprise or emotional or intellectual involvement, much to the distress of her latest part-time conquest, recently divorced teacher/author Charles Berling. The downward spiral of obsession that will destroy his life is a given, and that's the problem. The film constantly tries to raise the stakes to surprise us by how much further it will go, but by the last third he's become so intensely irritating in yet another variation of the previous scene - only louder and more desperate - that you lose interest. Had it ended half an hour earlier it might have been more successful, but this seriously outstays its welcome.

Poor movie, but definitely worth a watch for Guillemin.

Love, etc.

Tedium, etc.
A French adaptation of a Julian Barnes novel, this is a pretty basic and very tedious romantic triangle: when shy loser Yvan Attal hooks up with Charlotte Gainsbourg, his luck changes while his best friend Charles Berling's fortunes suffer reverses as he falls for her and bores passing strangers by telling them his hopes of how to win her. Unfortunately this seems to be by going for the Anakin Skywalker route of whining her into submission, as his tiresome self-pity gradually and inexplicably wins her over.

There are a few nice moments: a wedding photo in which all three reveal their innermost thoughts, one of Berling's captive confessors asking him "Don't you ever get tired of your bulls**t?" and Berling following his comparison of an affair being as unsatisfactory as a holiday in Marbella by his nervous rambling that "Actually, Marbella can be nice at this time of year. I went there once. It's best to go off season." Similarly, his dismissal of Leonard Cohen's genius by admitting he finds a lack of imagination in rhyming 'ay' with 'ay ay ay' neatly punctures Attal's tendency to play Cohen's waltz at every opportunity. Unfortunately they are few and far between, and Berling is astonishingly annoying here. You keep on waiting for someone to hit him, repeatedly (now there's an idea for a movie!), but it never happens. There is one great final confrontation when Attal confronts the two: his performance has real power here and the writing mirrors the ebb and flow and awkwardness of such moments. But it's not enough.

Ni pour, ni contre (bien au contraire)

Nothing for, nothing against
Bit of a disappointment really - after a good start in Goodfellas mode (where the anti-hero's life of crime is linked to his love of good shoes) and an initially mildly intriguing set-up that never pays off, the film just gradually flat lines. It isn't terrible, but it isn't particularly good. Performances are fine but not outstanding and the plot ticks along on the usual robbery goes wrong lines without ever threatening any surprises. The biggest surprise is a bit part for Diane Kruger as a hooker, much more attractive here than in Troy.

The one thing which does impress is Klapisch's Scope framing. This is a man who really knows how to fill the wide, wide screen, and he throws in the greatest shot of Cannes' Carlton Hotel ever. It's just a shame that the script never rises to the level of visual invention.

The Trench

Well-intentioned but inept
It's heart might be in the right place, but this tepid misfire looks like a bad TV schools production in every way. The 'exteriors' are obviously interior studio sets, and not very convincing ones. It's so badly lit that when the film finally goes outdoors to rip off the end of Gallipoli (which it does incredibly badly, like everything else) the change of film stock is so jarring it hurts.

The characters are childish stereotypes talking in unbelievable clichés and the film is frequently just plain wrong about details and attitudes of the average WW1 Tommy: politically correct, maybe, but historically it's a travesty (no Mr Boyd, officers DID go over the top: the highest percentage of casualties was officers, and even many generals died in battle).

But more than being badly directed, looking cheap, getting its facts wrong and going with every cliché Boyd can find, it's biggest sin is that it's just so bloody boring. Bad on every level.

WW1 was a terrible tragedy, and those who died in it deserve better than this terrible, terrible film.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2

Puts the 'no' in 'Tarantino'
What a letdown. After months of waiting, we're left with a drawn-out, badly written, undercharacterised anticlimax. The action scenes are poor, the plot developments predictable, the characters uninteresting and even QT's supposedly legendary ear for dialogue is revealed to be made of solid tin - was there ever a worse last line for a major movie? And were there ever so many poor performances in one film from a supposedly major director? Carradine shines only because he rises to the giddy heights of being average in such poor company (Uma is especially bad, and the extremely unflattering photography doesn't help).

KB 1 was an okayish but wildly overlong actioner, but there's nothing here to match the silly but mildly exciting House of Blue Leaves finale. What that means is the big action climax actually happened at the end of another movie or halfway through this one when it's put together. After that, imagination deserts QT, but he just keeps on going like an irritating tin toy that has outstayed its welcome. A poor show, for purists and geeks only. THE disappointment of the decade.

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