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The Inspector General

The one and only Mr. Danny Kaye
I saw this for the first time ever on Amazon Prime recently and was not disappointed. Danny was really the whole package - a lovely singing voice and great dance moves, not to mention a wacky sense of humour. The plot is pretty lightweight, but it doesn't matter as Danny shines throughout the film and you end up smiling. In terms of the rest of the cast, they're all great. Ultimately, the key message of the film is that it pays to be honest. In terms of Kaye's background (Ukranian ancestry), I'm sure this whole script would have been of special significance to him. Really enjoyable.

Follow a Star

This film has everything
For me, this is undeniably Sir Norman's 'finest hour', with the hypnosis sequence literally reducing me to tears of laughter, as well as the end scene. A spelling supporting cast including the fabulous Hattie Jacques as his music and elocution teacher and the outstanding Jerry Desmonde as the despicable Vernon Carew. Just wonderful and nothing can touch it in terms of not only comedy but poignancy. Sir Norman really was a legend in his own lunchtime. Young children and adults alike will love this. Teenagers? Well they're in a breed of their own...!

The Girl on the Boat

Sir Norman shows his flexiblility
Interesting little piece that I watched for the second time in a few years, with Sir Norman stepping away from his usual film company and breaking away from his normal 'Pitkin' character. Very good he is too, as the upper class twit who falls head over heels in love with a woman who seems to hold the world record at engagements. Excellent support from the rest of the mostly British cast including Richard Briers, Sheila Hancock and the ever-reliable Bernard Cribbins. At the heart of the story is the shallowness of the upper crust which P.G. Wodehouse always captured so well.The script is fine and the direction very good. I one for certainly enjoyed it and on the second viewing even more so. A lovely way to spend an hour and half. They don't make actors such as Sir Norman these days, more's the pity.

Britannia Hospital

Just dreadful
I really wanted to like this movie, but in the end couldn't even bear to watch it to the end. The one redeeming feature was Leonard Rossiter and I found myself wondering whether even he would have doubted his sanity in signing up to this when he saw the final rushes. Malcolm McDowell, whom I considered to be a good actor, was reduced to little more than a 'Carry-On' performance. The juxtaposition of farce and horror to me seemed miscalculated. Just dreadful and one I'm trying to forget... Tip: don't watch this whilst consuming food.

Columbo: The Conspirators
Episode 5, Season 7

A serious case of the blarney
It is a fact that, for several decades - the 70s included - the Irish were depicted as stereotypical hard drinking, blarney-kissing, unreliable and romantic fools, often played by non-Irish actors with fair to middling success at cracking either the Northern, but mostly Southern Irish accents. That's a shame as it does a disservice to an isle which has produced so many noteworthy people such as W.S. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw and far more besides.

In this episode of Columbo, practically every assumed Irish trait is employed, and the result is, at worst cringeworthy, at best fair. In fact, I found myself wondering when a leprechaun would appear. Clive Revill, a New Zealander and otherwise respected Shakespearean actor, hams it up and falls somewhere in between an English, Scottish and what can only be described as a faux Southern Ireland accent. This is a real missed opportunity, as the script and plot is of a good standard. Revill's facial expressions are excellent - the only problem is when he opens his mouth you cringe and literally wonder where in-between London and Dublin his accent will happen to be. I say 'missed opportunity' because the singing puts me very much in mind of the late Luke Kelly of the Dubliners, and I found myself imagining what the eloquent and sharp-witted Mr. Kelly could have done with this role. Likewise a certain Richard Harris would have been truly excellent. So all in all, this can only be described as a serious case of the Blarney. It's fascinating, but for all the wrong reasons as it's ultimately a study in how to blow a great plot by casting the wrong actor. Such an oversight is forgivable for vehicles such as 'Mary Poppins', but sadly not for the likes of Columbo.

Portrait of Jennie

Haunting love story that transcends time
Sometimes one happens upon a film which one wouldn't have even known about unless it is found by accident. This, for me, is one of those films and I couldn't be happier to have found it. Having done a little research on the actor Joseph Cotten, he is on the record as stating that this is the favourite of all the films he starred in. With some choice actors in support in the form of Jennifer Jones, Ethel Barrymore - of the famous Barrymore acting clan - Lilian Gish and Cecil Kellaway, everyone plays their parts beautifully. As for Cotten, he has never been in finer form, as his usual melancholy charm is perfectly suited to this film. In essence, the plot revolves around a struggling artist who is yet to find his niche and, indeed, his muse. That muse turns up in the form of Jennie, played beautifully by Jennifer Jones. This film is notable for the fact that it is mostly in monochrome i.e. black and white, but the final reel uses a green tint and sepia. In terms of the direction, it is wonderful and some effective but subtle special effects - for which it bagged an Oscar - are put to very good use. Probably one of the greatest ever love stories committed to film and I'm so glad to have seen it.

The Conversation

Sometimes it pays not to listen in
This is a cool little piece from Francis Ford Coppola, starring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a detective whose speciality is surveillance. The plot is great and really plays with the viewer's psychology, leading to a genuine feeling of foreboding. Great support too not only from John Cazale but also from Harrison Ford, who is genuinely creepy. The whole thing adds up to a couple of hours well spent. Look out for an uncredited performance from Robert Duvall. As for the soundtrack, it does very well to keep the viewer on edge and again adds to the overall experience. The ending is absolutely great, as Caul becomes ever more paranoid and ultimately unravels. Great.

The Godfather

The definitive mob movie
Chances are you may have heard of this film, then again maybe you haven't. Anyway, let's cut to the chase. 'The Godfather', running at just under three hours, boasts at least four set pieces which will have you at the edge of your seat. The director takes care in familiarising us with not just the Corleone family, but also their staff and associates, which really engages the viewer. We are also witness to the transformation of a certain Michael Corleone. There are elements of tragedy in this film which sows the seeds for future perpetrations of revenge, and the ultimate message that I took away was that man has the capacity to cause absolute carnage, which clearly we already know: I suppose that it does no little harm to remind ourselves of that fact. In terms of the acting, it superlative with everyone putting in credible performances. Given that the director was under incredible pressure to make this a success, it is a fantastic feat and still holds up today as the definitive mob movie. However, let me put all that to one side and reserve special credit to Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola who have created quite possibly the best and most recognisable soundtrack in movie history. If you don't already have it, I recommend that you buy 'The Godfather Trilogy' album: there are songs on the album which, if they don't send a shiver up your spine, will reduce you to tears, such is the poignancy of these compositions. I strongly believe that this film would not have been what it is without this soundtrack - it is that crucial to the overall structure.


Deals with male mid-life crisis head-on
The chances are that, if or whenever you hear the name 'Peter Falk', you instantly associate it with the excellent award winning TV detective series, 'Columbo'. If you stretch your mind a bit, you may even recall that he appeared in a couple of films such as 'The Great Race' or 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'. If that's the extent of your knowledge of this actor, then you are missing out on a number of excellent performances, one of which appears in this film. Essentially 'Husbands' covers the unravelling self-confidence of three close friends, who suffer the loss of their close fourth friend, and the plot effectively deals with the subsequent fallout. It is, by turns, humorous, black and difficult to watch at times, but for me, it was a brave attempt to capture this subject on film. John Cassavetes, who not only stars in the film but also directs, was known as a pioneer of American cinema - particularly for using the POV genre - and with films such as this, it's easy to see why. In terms of the main three actors, each brings a depth, but not only that, a true tragi-comedic element, to their characters, which are highly believable. It would be difficult to single one of the main three actors out for particular praise, such is the balance and interplay. Highly recommended, not only for men of a certain age but also for women seeking insight on the mind of men.

Forbidden Planet

A Little Gem
This is a film that has been in the back of my mind for a while to watch, and it was over in the Columbo podcast website that a buddy of mine brought it to the forefront. This stars Leslie Nielsen in a very different kind of role that we're used to seeing him in, and it has to be said that he makes a credible leading man. As for the supporting cast, the sinister Dr. Morbius is characterised very well by Walter Pidgeon and his daughter, Altaira, is played nicely by Anne Francis. What with the presence of Robbie the robot, built at a cost of $125,000, and - for, what must have been at the time, an extremely novel alien landscape - one has to say that an excellent job has been done all round. One can certainly see the seeds of future sci-fi staples such as Star Trek. A must for all sci-fi fans and even those who aren't will derive at least some kind of enjoyment from this. Finally, as for the plot, this is based on 'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare, who surely brings with him his own credentials.

Shadow of a Doubt

Hitchcock's finest hour
This has been described as his favourite Hitchcock film and I'm inclined to agree with him. From Joseph Cotton's utterly believable inhabitation of the central character to Teresa Wright's dawning realisation of the facts, this is a very absorbing piece of cinema. As usual, there are some beautiful set pieces and the director really engages your attention, which is really all that one can ask as a viewer.

I find it quite sad that Cotton never landed an Oscar for this, or for any of his other roles for that matter, as he really had what it took. As a side note, for any 'It's A Wonderful Life' fans, you will immediately spot the presence of a certain Henry Travers - aka Clarence the angel.

In summary, for me this is the definitive Hitchcock film, and should be in any discerning film buff's library.

Citizen Kane

There are better films out there
Having watched Alfred Hitchcock's 'Shadow Of A Doubt' just yesterday, then viewing 'CK' today - both of which star Joseph Cotten - I was struck that these were two distinctly different genres. However, for me, what makes a film is how it engages with the viewer, and for me, there is no comparison between the two. That is to say I was underwhelmed with 'CK' and it just didn't engage me. That is not to say that there are not some very nice set pieces of cinematography in it. I would imagine that, back in 1941, this was so different to anything out there that it was regarded as quite groundbreaking. But in fact, I actually prefer Welles's 'Touch Of Evil' (reconstructed version) to 'CK', however that's only my opinion.

In summary I would say, rather than being influenced by top 100 film lists and getting enticed into the whole 'rosebud' PR stunt, watch what Hitchcock described as his own favourite film i.e. 'Shadow Of A Doubt'. You won't be sorry.

Columbo: Any Old Port in a Storm
Episode 2, Season 3

The Moreno Brothers?!!!
Oh what a marvellous episode, with Donald Pleasence on sparkling (forgive the pun) form. Columbo also seems to really enter into the spirit of things (oh, sorry - there I go again). What I also loved was the way Mr. Carsini created havoc in the restaurant, literally incandescent with rage and, of course, this turned out to be a pivotal part of the story line. The support from the Maitre 'D (played by Vito Scotti) and wine steward (Monte Landis) really helped make this a memorable scene, especially the bit at the end of the scene where they are sampling the wine and clearly some great rapport between these two actors. Also memorable was the early scene with his brother who has the audacity to mention the Moreno Brothers, to which Adrian Carsini literally explodes 'The Moreno brothers?!!! The Moreno brothers?!!! 69 cents a gallon Moreno Brothers?!!!' A really nice touch at the end when Columbo produces the wine. I think that's one of the things I love about his character - the humanitarian aspect even in the face of such desperate goings on.

For me, this was the first episode to contain transparent humour, which was a really nice touch.

One other thing I noticed was the use of NBV (non-verbal behaviour) in this episode, not just by Adrian Carsini, but also by Columbo. Watch it again and see how many times you spot cast members use NVB rather than talking.

The House of Fear

Terrifically atmospheric
This is certainly one of the best in the series of SH films, with a wonderfully atmospheric feel to it right from the outset. Snippets of information about certain characters build up the tension nicely, and a solid supporting cast - particularly Sally Shepherd as the sinister Mrs. Monteith - really gets things going. Throw in a suitably creepy old stately home and it all adds up to an entertaining 69 minutes. Nicely paced direction from the ever-present director, Roy William Neill, directing one of his final films before his untimely death at just 59 the following year. Neill was to direct another four Sherlock Holmes films before his final film noir 'Black Angel' and this one is certainly amongst the pick of the crop. Rathbone excellent as usual. Bruce and Hoey (as Inspector Lestrade) bounce off each other in terms of humour. An excellent twist at the end guarantees satisfaction.


Who are you looking at?
Richard Burton inhabits the character of Vic Dakin very well in this competent but slightly one- dimensional gangster film. Swinging from psycho one minute to loving son the next, there's no doubt that Burton would have enjoyed the variety of the role. I love the way he literally snarls some of his lines out. Throw in a politician with a roving eye (played very well indeed by Donald Sinden) and a gay wide boy whom Dakin dotes on (Ian McShane), and that's pretty much the premise of the storyline. For me, the only issue is that there's not an awful lot to it. Yes - Burton is outstanding, even though he doesn't quite nail the cockney accent, with his bright blue eyes flashing menacingly, and he is ably supported by a great cast. It's very much in the same vein as the likes of 'Get Carter' but doesn't move as fast, which probably doesn't help. Am I glad I took the time out on a Saturday afternoon to watch this? You betcha!


Slightly Unsettling Monochrome Morbidity
It was with some trepidation that I sat down to view this cult classic, not least because of its reputation which so obviously precedes it. There is no doubt that this film is very strong on audio - in fact the soundtrack really gets under your skin and creates such an ambiance right from the outset that you almost feel yourself being reeled in. The main character - Henry - is surely a modern day version of Buster Keaton. You really do feel that there is a nod to the silent films era, not only with the visuals but with the humour, most of which is unerringly black. There are many set pieces in the film which serve to both unnerve and amuse you in equal measure, which in itself makes for quite an unsettling experience. The supporting cast are nothing short of excellent. There are several other reviews out there which label this film as groundbreaking and I would say that that label is certainly justified. It will be obvious to those viewing this that certain directors of certain movies now regarded as classics will have had the seeds of an idea from this movie. For those die-hard Lynch fans out there, you will LOVE this film. For those who have never entered the bizarre world of the director, you will certainly take something from this. Not sure what, and perhaps that's the point. This is a new experience which will have you thinking about it days later, and what finer tribute can a movie have than that?

Yip Man 2

Amazing choreography of fight sequences but historically off the scale
For me, a sad fact about this film is that it really plays with the human emotion of hatred. In fact, I feel that, given the emphasis on benevolence within Chinese martial arts, whilst this film has undoubtedly brought in lots of revenue for the film industry, it may have ironically done a disservice to martial arts.

The fight scenes are truly remarkable, but what we basically have here is a similar situation to Neil Jordan's 'Michael Collins' film, in which a whole fictitious story has been concocted around a hero, resulting in a dangerous misconception. If I was Chinese, and watching Ip Man 2, how would I feel about the British? Are we also expected to believe that a martial artist with the skills of either master who boxed against Twister would not have dispatched him in record time? Having seen Ip Man dispatch 10 Japanese martial artists in the first film, here we see him being beaten by a boxer with no martial art skills. This in itself is laughable.

Perhaps if the director cut down on the sensationalism and focused more on the practical aspects of Yip Man's training, we would end up with a more credible film, and one that would ultimately serve as a great advert for Wing Chun.

Interesting film but left me with a nasty taste in my mouth.

The Red Shoes

Mesmerising? That's some claim, but there are parts of this film that really do so deeply absorb you that you will be almost hypnotised. Powell and Pressburger were so far ahead of their time that it's really astonishing to believe that this film was actually made in 1947. With wonderful performances from all involved, including an outstanding central performance from Anton Wallbrook, there is barely a wasted frame from start to finish. I read recently that when Ludovic Kennedy saw Moira Shearer's performance in this, he decided there and then that this was the girl he would marry, and two years later they did! Will films ever be this good again? One can only hope so. The one thing I am sure of is that this film should never be re-made. Looking for a reason to upgrade to Blu-Ray? You just found it!

Wuthering Heights

Missed Opportunity to be the best version
OK - first let me say that there has been a lot of talk about this version vs the 1992 version with Fiennes and Binoche. In fact, both productions made one fundamental mistake which would have otherwise rendered each version near perfect - they cast the wrong female leads. Calder-Marshall is far too posh for Cathy. My goodness me though - Dalton is perfect as Heathcliffe. I'm going to put this down to the make up department but it's actually hard to believe that Calder-Marshall is about 3 years younger than him. I actually think she is a good actress, but certainly miscast as Cathy. What really galls me though is the screenplay which takes such liberties with the story, much of which is simply left out and a completely different ending formulated. The last time I felt so cheated was when I watched Captain Corelli's Mandolin! Bottom line - a great example of a real missed opportunity to be the definitive version...

Wuthering Heights

The best version to date
OK, so I'm reviewing this compared to the 1939 and 1970 versions. For those of you who love the 1939 version, I'm sorry, but the soundtrack is just plain awful. That said, if you took away the soundtrack and applied a contemporary one, we may be talking about a serious contender.

The 1970 version suffers from having a miscast Cathy, and as much as I admire Juliette Binoche, I have to knock a mark off for the same issue here, although that said, she really does her very best and aside from the French accent that is just about detectable, there is no doubting the passion she brings to the role.

Ralph Fiennes is every bit as good as Olivier and Dalton. In fact, I would say his performance edges them out, possibly based on the fact that he has more scope to play with as this version is more faithful to the book. He really nails it, although funnily enough, at times he sounds like Leonard Rossiter; even that cannot detract from a powerhouse performance. Not since Peter Finch's Boldwood in 'Far From The Madding Crowd' has an actor been worthy of the words 'hotbed of tropic intensity', but Fiennes is most definitely worthy of that description.

The music? Well, let's not mention the 1939 soundtrack again. The 1970 version was beautiful in terms of the score, but the 1992 version brings tears to the eyes and is more varied.

This, in my opinion, is still the version to beat, and I loved the performance by Sinead O'Connor too...

Seven years on, and I happened upon the soundtrack again today - it has stood the test of time. It just fits the mood and tone of the movie so well that it's genius. So from that point of view, in my opinion, Ryuichi Sakamoto should be regarded as one of the finest composers of all time. Since I wrote my original review, Ralph Fiennes has had huge success as Voldemort, but for me, he will always hold a special place as the definitive Heathcliffe. It's an absolute travesty that a Blu Ray is not available for this, although you can always download the HD version via Amazon or Apple etc.


Strangely unsatisfying
On paper this has all the hallmarks of a classic - interesting storyline and amazing cast; however there is something about the whole production which just left me feeling strangely unsatisfied. Perhaps that it ended so suddenly? There is no doubt that the scene in which Hoffmann and Streep share the screen has a real intensity to it, and this I would like to have seen more of. I just feel that it didn't fulfil its potential even though there were some telling moments that resonated, particularly the differences between the priests and the lay people. I really hope that Hoffmann and Streep work together again, as there is a definite chemistry there. Just a shame that you can't really build a whole film around one fantastic scene.

Matchstick Men

Good vehicle for Cage's acting ability
After recently having the pleasure(?) of viewing one of Cage's latest offerings - 'Bangkok Dangerous', - I approached this one with a sense of confidence, as it already has such a great reputation. Ridley Scott - the renowned director of Bladerunner - has made a film of quite a different genre, so a real departure from his usual stuff, but I have to say he has come in with what I felt to be a very watchable film with some pretty complex characters thrown in. Nic Cage gets to display a good range of his acting skills. He really is the master of the facial tic as anyone thinking back to some of his earlier films (such as Vampyr's Kiss') will recall. To those who scoff at his recent choice of projects e.g. G-Force, just remember, he is an actor. You take the work while you can. Anyway, to summarise, for me, above all, this film was refreshing as all of the actors acquitted themselves really well. A polished piece of cinematography that I will definitely enjoy viewing again.

The Reader

Beautifully photographed, contemplative movie with understated performances.
It's not really difficult to be complimentary about this movie. Wonderful direction, quietly engrossing, great performances from all. Nice to see Bruno Ganz turning up too. There is something amazing about a film which successfully spreads itself across decades of people's lives, and this film is certainly successful in that respect. Really makes you think about the roles we play as humans. Are they really of our own making? How much power do we truly have in terms of being caught up something much, much bigger than one can even imagine? Probably the best thing that Ralph Fiennes has done in a while; Kate Winslet's star is obviously very much in the ascendancy these days, and I hope that we will be seeing a lot more of David Kross - a fine young actor.

Tropic Thunder

Strangely vacuous
Since I have nothing good to say about this movie, I will say nothing. OK, I give in - this was disappointing on a number of levels; in terms of expectations, a bit like eating a Chinese meal and expecting it to fill you, then 20 minutes later being hungry again. This is almost as bad as 'Night of The Running Man', and believe me, you do not want to go THERE... Not even remotely as funny as it is purported to be. Ben Stiller maybe the new Steve Martin, but not in a good way. Don't get me wrong, Ben has talent, as witnessed - in my humble opinion - in 'Meet The Parents' and 'Meet The Fockers'. Robert Downey Junior is on extremely dodgy ground here, although strangely enough he is the best thing in the movie by a mile, which is saying something, and Jack Black - what the heck was he thinking. Come on guys - you can do better than this - how about reading your scripts and not just assuming, 'cause it's written and directed by a comedian, it will be funny...

The Incredible Hulk

Much better than the media reviews made out
OK, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I settled down to watch this, although admittedly I did enjoy the first Hulk film with Eric Bana. Just for a change, I'm not going to go on about how fantastic this film was, but I'm actually going to say that, had it not been for the ending of the showdown between The Hulk and Tim Roth's monster, which I found to be highly improbable and actually downright perplexing, I would have probably given this a 10. This is one of those rare films where, apart from about 1 minute or less, is actually flawless, and whereas my disappointment of this ending is in no way comparable to that which I experienced in 'No Country For Old Men', I was still left feeling disappointed - actually more disappointed for the director and the actors that this turned out to be a flawed masterpiece.

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