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Target for Tonight (1941)
Famous faces in film
A very realistic film although one has to get used to the old English accents which are rarely heard these days. The pilot of F for Freddy was ultimately to be Gp Capt P C Pickard, DSO, DFC, at this time playing a Sergeant Dixon, although I am unsure of that. Pickard became one of the best specialists at pin point low level missions, mainly using Mosquitos and a great air leader. In 1944 AVM Basil Embry, selected him to lead the raid on Amiens prison, a raid of very great daring. Unfortunately after his run to the target a FW190 attached itself to his tail and he was shot down. Gp Capt P C Pickard, aged 28 years of age and his navigator Flight Lieutenant J. A. 'Bill' Broadley, aged 23 years old, were killed. Rest in peace.
The Shadow Line (2011)
An equal opportunity drama
The BBC used to be known for some of the most nail biting and well written drama. It still does some great period work from the Victorians but the days of greatness have long passed as the BBC has descended into its present moralizing role. This series has started out in quite a good way but,as usual, the BBC has to tick all the equal opportunity boxes so we have the standard white/black mother/father family fairly portrayed. While I applaud the BBC in its quest for equal opportunity in British drama, it does somewhat affect the authenticity of the plot when you feel someone from the racial discrimination department is standing over every location making certain the correct, and approved, democratic UK profile is presented throughout. I await furtherepisodes with a good anticipation of a script which is well written andexciting and not seemingly vetted by big brother.
One of the finest unseen WW1 series made
I came across this and downloaded it as it referenced the RFC in WW1. A major surprise in that it explained all the problems of the RFC in the early stages of the war head on whilst switching to show life in a small village at the lower middle class level. The flying scenes are not bad at all dealing well with the dangers of reconnaissance and initial forays into dog fights and the realism is extremely effective with a mature intelligent script. There have been a few flying WW1 films with Basil Rathbone, Errol Flynn such as The Blue Max, Dawn Patrol,Hell's Angels and a really awful film made two or three years ago of which I cannot remember the name (thank goodness). It also deals sensibly with the problems of class between NCO and Commissioned pilots with the two leads featuring one of each But this is a series! And a damn good one at that. I have seen series one and am now downloading series 2 but so far this is a real gem.
Der Rote Baron (2008)
This is what happens when you give someone a large budget for a film and that person has no idea about the subject. Now this was a German film! It therefore was a chance to accurately portray the historical facts and to give as good a picture of those who are the heroes. Apparently Lanoe Hawker was a fat man with a beard. He was not. Such a small point might not be considered important but if you want realism it immediately destroys any trust in the script writer and director. Roy Brown is given an important part. Roy Brown happened to be part of the dogfight in which Von Richthoven died. Technically it was impossible for Brown to have shot Von Richthoven down when modern analysis is made. There is little doubt he was shot down by machine gun fire with one bullet in his right side. But the truth is that most of this script is absolute rubbish. Von Richtoven had been to a Prussian Officer's School and would never have looked like the lout portrayed here. He comes across as an immature boy. He was not that nor was his brother. The tonality is of a director who wants to make a aerial combat picture and make money, not caring about his subject. He doesn't. The graphics are awful on a par with all else). I'm surprised this film has not been condemned by many in Germany. It is an insult to the spirit of the German military machine in the first world war.
Wish Me Luck (1987)
Very good until three quarters thru season 2
Back to 1987 to see really well made drama and this one a wartime one on the SOE. The first series is really very good, especially with Kate Buffery. Pretty well researched although there are a few errors and with a good feel ending which is not too lacking in veracity. Same for second season except a lot of emotionalism in the last episode and it started to unravel. The third series seems to have become lost in what is either a serious drama on the SOE or something of a Barbara Cartland novel. I have to see the last four episodes but something has really gone wrong and it is a wretched shame because it was so believable in the first two series. Now its wacky. In general though this is a first class wartime drama, far superior in its early series to anything else I have seen. I mean we have a real life Lysander here which was the aircraft type used during the war and that really is a first. Well shot but must have been expensive as a lot of vehicles and factories get blown up in a time before CGI. Julian Glover and Jane Asher do extremely well as the home front whilst Suzanna Hamilton is outstanding in the first series and Jane Snowden is good in the second series, both as radio operators, but JS is a victim of the weird plot in series three. Both these girls seemed to disappear from sight after Wish Me Luck which is a great shame.
Walter Tull: Forgotten Hero (2008)
He must turn in his grave
Walter Tull was a very good footballer before the First World War. He became one of the first black British men to become an officer in that war. No mean feat but then Tull was no mean man. This so called documentary purports to show what really transpired on Walter Tull's road to being an officer. It is written with a certain ignorance,yet honesty, of a born again racist (or non racist)of present times. What is shown is worse than Tull's training ever was. Tull was treated with scrupulous correctness, in light of his conspicuous courage in the field, before being selected to become an officer. The script shows little understanding of conditions at the time and is totally ignorant of the way Tull was really treated. If it wasn't a true story of a man of high calibre and great bravery, it would sink into a sea of mediocrity. Surely someone could have written a script which was more realistic than this racist garbage but then it would not have been good television.
High Flight (1957)
I was, in fact, at RAF College Cranwell in the early sixties as a cadet and yes, we all saw the film. Your points about Tony Newley are, if I can remember back that far, correct and it was meant to be taking place at the College although I believe much of the filming went on at a Norfolk or Suffolk fighter base such as Middle St George or Waterbeach. Initial flying training was done on Piston Provosts then going onto Vampires or Meteors dependent a lot on height (if long legged it was hard clearing the cockpit if ejecting in Vamps). We did our training on Jet Provosts 3 and 4's as the syllabus changed from being flying intensive to academic intensive. Kenneth Haigh was also in it. Wouldn't mind seeing it again either.
Midsomer Murders: Country Matters (2006)
Country Matters was slightly out of the ordinary for MM. Obiously the team were a bit bored and made this episode with tongue in cheek! Drily funny, it deals with those grave matter of sex and murder with a bit of frivolity which might be unbecoming the Middle cLasses of Midsomer but makes everything a great send up and a real hoot. One of the best episodes. There is also the use of actors and actresses already known to friends of PBS English series such as Inspector Morse. Because IMDb has never liked a pithy comment where several hundred words will do I have to continue with this just to meet the minimum amount of lines. IMDb would never have allowed Pauline Kael in her more pithily scathing moments to submit her comments!
Brideshead Revisited (2008)
It's not Brideshead Revisited
The greatness of the original Brideshead Revisited was in the luxury of being able to transpose a very complicated emotional and intellectual book into words. It succeeded in this, but only just, due to superb direction, photography and script which, even in its sparseness, only just allowed the successful transition to film. The problem with anything shorter is that, if it took Mortimer so many episodes to get it right, then there are very few writers who could even get near in under 4 hours, if that. So lets stop beating about the bush. This is a sound reproduction of the calender plot but after that it is not Brideshead Revisited. Call it by another name and I will laud it. It brings in a strong homosexual element and a early sexual attraction between Charles Ryder and Miss Flyte. With that everything becomes unbalanced. Motivations change. The beauty of the original is that it hinted at ????something (a je ne sais quoi) and it was that and the ever strengthening Catholic awareness of family that made this film so fascinating. The original's masterpiece was the script supported by the cine photography. That has been lost. But taken as is, a pretty and interesting film which seems to be loosely based on an early fifties work by Waugh.
The Search for the Nile (1971)
The BBC do not wish this series to be seen.
Quite a few of the best BBC films have been locked away. There is a possibility that, in the minds of a very politically correct and left leaning BBC upper management, the advertising of Empire and Africa is not a truth that should be allowed anymore. The standard of documentary's, and that of the news itself for which the BBC used to be renowned, has been lowered dramatically over the past 20 years. The BBC are ashamed of British involvement in Africa in the nineteenth Century and do their best to make certain that any programs which reflect otherwise are not available. It's a great pity. No quality anymore just proselytizing. The BBC is being systematically dumbed down to make certain it reflects a government view of the world.
A Horseman Riding By (1978)
Clunky script and direction
The books were, without doubt, extraordinary in their depiction of the age and families within those years. They were well written and absorbing. The script writers and the director had a lot from which to translate the book to the screen. They succeeded partially. At times the acting was so contrived that it was seemed to be a lesson in how not to act. It was rather like a play put on by a village dramatic society. The writers and director were saved by some very good acting by the leading actors and actresses but it must be said that this was because of very good casting. All the leads, except Glyn Houston, were acting themselves. 1978 people the same characters as in 1903? Yes but the genre is fast fading in the present Britain. What a tragedy.
Vera Drake (2004)
An idealistic and incorrect view of the working classes in the 50's
My mother worked as a health visitor in London and I was brought up during this time there. There was, without a doubt, a stigma in abortions but that was more of a middle class thing. The lower class understood the need for abortions. After all they were the ones whose only real delights they could afford in a dreary, dirty, bombed out, bankrupt city were booze and sex but they could not pay, as the rich girl did in this film, for a legal abortion. Mike Leigh gets his knickers in a twist over class, many times with justification, but he pushes it a bit far this time. Of course the whole thing was hypercritical and against the working class but to find one abortionist in 50's London who never took money and really was Joan of Arc; who totally goes to pieces when found out; whose family moralizes about it makes me wonder about Mr Leigh's provenance these days.
The Woodsman (2004)
This is an intense, "tough to watch"film
I held my breath throughout this film wondering if he would repeat his mistakes. It was obvious that this was a molester of young girls who hated himself and you could see him fighting the whole way through. Possibly many people who gave this film a low rating said to themselves that a portrayal of a paedophile deserved no sympathy and the producers should not have made it. But the film addressed two salient facts. Firstly there are far more paedophiles around than caught and this type of thing happens frequently in a domestic situation. Far more frequently than anyone is willing to admit. Secondly paedophiles come in many forms and some are as Walter is. He hates it but cannot help it without a huge amount of inner strength. At the end you do not know if he will do it again, it seems likely, but he hates himself and the urges he gets even more than others around him do. It was an intense film, very hard to watch but it points out some ugly truths which most people will not want to admit happens. yet there are a thousand stories of this happening with no one bought to justice. First class acting by all but no one will thank them for it (as we see from the ratings).
Journey's End (1930)
Not an anti-war film!
Understandably many people have called Journey's End an Anti-War film and it seems so because it reflects the terrible plight in the trenches. However R.C.Sheriff did not write this as an indictment of the Great War. It was of the brotherly love felt between two people in a time of stress. Sheriff, who served in the trenches before being wounded at Ypres never felt the great anger that appeared in All Quiet on the Western Front, Goodbye to all that etc. In fact a majority of serving personnel felt anger towards the pacifist nature of Sassoon and fellow anti-war writers.(read A subaltern's War by Charles Edmonds or some of the Ira Jones Books) One must remember that many had spent four years of hell in the trenches and to be all told that it was wasted time was pure anathema. In today's world, where we have been educated on the 'Oh, what a lovely war", Barkers trilogy and BirdSong it is more clear, in hindsight, as to the failure of Generals and the pointlessness of it all. By the way, one of the first actors to read for the London production was an unknown young actor called Lawrence Olivier
Rather mundane and boring
This film has gathered a raft of plaudits from all the critics. I and a friend went to see it because of that. we were both disappointed. This is a breath of fresh air for all the experts who are hailing it with sensitive, subtle, a buddy movie etc. Possibly for the rest of us mortals it showed the mundane activities of two losers. Outside of the rest of the world they would be wondering what these two unattractive characters had to be desperate about. One day in the real world, in the middle East or other third world countries might make this couple realize what real desperation was. So apparently I have joined the world of Klutzes who have not the intelligence to understand. Mind you, with these two it is hard to stay awake long enough to make the attempt.
The Big Red One (1980)
The emasculation of a potentially great film
I have seen this film quite a few times and have always been somewhat puzzled about it. There was no doubt that it had some of the most emotive scenes of any war film but seemed fractured. At times there seemed to be far more realism in it's morality than other films which was understandable since Sam Fuller actually served with The Big Red One at this time so much of it is a first hand account of events and attitudes. I have now read some of the background to the making of the film,I think in the L.A. Times,which now makes sense of the flaws in the film. Apparently Sam Fuller's budget was cut to the minimum by the studios after a regime change and the original screenplay as shot was hacked to death by the same studio against Fuller's wishes. This was not the film he wanted to make but he made it. And it was not the film that he shot as is indicated by the very complete screenplay notes he made. I think it is Richard Schickel, the noted reviewer of Time magazine, who has laboured to find the missing outtakes and to put the film together in its complete form with over 40 minutes added to the length. Apparently this more complete cut significantly improves the film and adheres to Sam Fullers screenplay more accurately. This new cut is now playing to limited audiences and, hopefully, will be available on DVD. It must be emphasized that this is not the film that Fuller originally wanted to make as the budget was cut by 75%. Some of the comments made by other reviewers on these pages are valid as to authenticity specifically in battle scenes. But Fuller did not have the budget that both the Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan had. It will be interesting to see the new cut. Hopefully it will flesh out what could have been one of the greatest Second World War films.
Shining Through (1992)
An insult to Szabo and others
This is complete drivel. Furthermore it is insulting to the memory of people such as Violette Szabo who died in concentration camps whole actually being spies. It insults the OSS. If anyone cares to really understand the immense sacrifices made by many very brave young girls who were sent as agents into France then get a copy of "Carve her name with Pride" Are there no depths to which untalented mediocrities in Hollywood will go to make a Buck? One would think there would be some potential for a realistic screenplay on this subject but as Charlotte Gray, another appalling film on this subject, showed either Hollywood or the audience are too dumb to appreciate it
Light It Up (1999)
Surprisingly good at times
I was a bit puzzled over this film. Yahoo gave it one and a half stars, a rating usually for really bad films (but not really bad films with budgets over $30 million). This was not a bad film, far from it. The first ten minutes really set the realism of certain public schools in New York, with middle management a slave to their superiors' concerns over their public image at the expense of the students. I looked at the Rotten Tomatoes list of reviews some of which acknowledged good aspects of this film. But some said it was formulaic. Well...yes? What will happen 100% of the time if a NYPD officer is shot and those responsible barricade themselves in? I suppose aliens were supposed to come down and rescue them? What mattered in this film was that it told the story from the students point of view and it told, with realism, some of the hard truths about bureaucracies who care about their image in sound bites and time of TV news but not really about the deficiencies of their system. It is enough to say that you felt with the students and it was told in their language. Apologies to the critics who felt a quick Caliban monologue should have been inserted. The ending was somewhat Breakfast Clubbish and, I agree, fantasy but all in all a truthful realistic film
Broken Arrow (1996)
A pile of badly conceived and written trash.
If anyone needs an example of how it is not ability but money and contacts that make some of the quintessential Hollywood films then this one is a great example. An inept script, very badly written makes one wonder whether the director really thought he was making a comedy. Everyone involved in this eggregious mess should be ashamed of themselves including John Woo who must have used it to upgrade himself from being a bad director to simply mediocre.
Femme Fatale (2002)
Brian De Palma, looking for an original idea, comes up with a load of refried hash from an assortment of different films and attempts to get the souffle to rise. It doesn't.
Gangs of New York (2002)
This would have been a very good movie if it had been 45 minutes shorter. As it was it dragged in many stages and somehow seemed blurred. If it was historically correct then, to me, there were quite a few terrific stories about Irish immigration, the riots etc which would have been more worthwhile telling. Problem seems to be that the director is very good at gangster films and got the budget on this reputation..a budget which could have been used to great effect to have made one or two films of this epoch on better subjects.
Phone Booth (2002)
I guess it is easy to make observations as to plot and what is wrong or bad. The fact is that the film holds you throughout which is a salute to good direction and Colin Farrel is very convincing.
Nine Months (1995)
Could have been quite good
If Hugh Grant had been told not to overact like a Jane Austin character in heat this could have been quite good. Even Robin Williams seemed subdued in comparison. Do not know whether Chris Columbus was getting in his dues but, thankfully, both went on to better things.
The Four Feathers (2002)
Nearly as bad as Pearl Harbor
If you have seen the 1939 version of this film do NOT see this. Astoudingly boring with quite awful script but some of the filming is spectacular especially when thinking of all the millions going down the tube. This film attempted to portray the essence of the upper class English society and fails. Overblown and very Monty Pythonish with ludicrous script which would make that era turn in the grave. Kate Hudson flickering from Estuary English, sometimes near but never there.
Loved the scenery
This is a mishmash. it is attempting to achieve something but since it fails badly it is hard to know what. Is this a light comedy? Is this a Woody Allen take off? God knows...its all over the place but I loved the scenery of London in the summer. I liked the Mind of the Married Man on HBO and was sorry when they cancelled it but this is most peculiar. Possibly a slightly better script and decidedly better directing might have transformed this film ie made it more comprehensible. A bit of editing and the London Tourist Board would love it. But most of it is pretentious crap.