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The quality of films shown on terrestial TV in the "old days" was generally high, with about 40% classics and real gems, 20% "awrights" and 40% dross.
Visits to the Cinema were a real adventure. Most even quite small towns had their own "big screen". They mostly showed just one film at a time. Somehow that made those films seem very special, even when they probably didn't really deserve it.
Now I sadly have very little time to watch TV and film, I'm just a sideshow film and TV buff.
The Man in the High Castle (2015)
Slight spoiler alert - Opening episodes impress, deserves a full first season
The basic alternate history premise of the story is not new to TV or film, but this production doesn't feel like it's just going through the motions, partly due to the quality of the novel on which it is based of the same name by Philip K Dick, and also the acting and directing talent on board. The story lines in first two episodes slowly ramp up the excitement, igniting real interest and the well balanced characterisation of both goodies and baddies (though it's not a dead cert at this stage who is who), accent the chill-factor of the story lines. Well delivered acting performances and directing keep a lid on what could otherwise easily become a rather silly outing into a self indulgent fantasy world. Deserves it's full first series.
A remarkable movie experience
I think that no film made can grade an IMDb 10 out of 10 - there is no such thing as perfection in art, the imperfection and striving for perfection is what makes art "art" and not just the words or pictures or sounds, but this movie comes very close. A challenging, totally immersive film experience. Beautifully constructed filmed and scored, it seems to reflect the essence of what was Mishima, seemingly conflicted, driven ideals were a launchpad for a celebrated and often controversial life.
His art, political and personal beliefs are separate but all interconnected and essential aspects of the man, and the film manages to reflect this, combining all these elements within a beautifully presented and concise package. The Philip Glass music is very much love or hate, but if you happen to like Glass's style, this film can become the most incredible movie experience, as it provides the emotional drive for the arid narrative, the three intense highly colored selections from his short fictional stories and the final biographical scene.
Still so underrated, but even after 25 years, it is one of the finest realisations of the art of cinema.
Had potential, but let down by poor storyline, dialogue, direction and leading performances.
Very slight spoiler - apart from the crummy review - but the film itself is it's own biggest spoiler.
"Drive" seems to have been marketed as a modern take on the dry, sometimes semi-documentary style crime/road action centered movies of the seventies, so you could be excused for thinking the quality is going to match "Bullitt", "The Driver" or even (God help me for making the comparison) The French Connection duo.
If so, be prepared to be disappointed - very, very disappointed.
Decent performances by the supporting cast: Bryan Cranston (Hal from Malcolm in the Middle) as the garage owner, Albert Brooks (pitches his role as a local hood nicely) Oscar Isaac (did a great job with a small part as Mulligan's squeeze, a small time crook trying to go straight), Christina Hendrickson (a nice turn in her few minutes as the devious moll), Mr Shouty Ron Pearlman (but less shouty than usual) couldn't save this flick.
However, Gosling (Driver) and Mulligan (Blond Next Door With Kid) don't come out of this looking good, both seem very weak and uncertain as to what was expected of their roles and delivery, but as they have put in much better performances elsewhere I suspect this is the director's doing.
You know, just staring a lot doesn't make automatically make you come across like Eastwood as the Man with No Name - you have to have the charisma to back it up, whether that comes from great character build through storyline and scripting or sheer force of personality. No sign of either of those here unfortunately. The storyline was very weak, and while other films have come good with worse, this isn't one of them, as it has neither the taut direction, the entertaining dialogue or the big personality leads to carry it off.
Some of the action scenes are fairly well done though. The short, action driving sequences are OK but given the movie is called "Drive" you feel a bit robbed by the very few minutes of these on offer. Sadly the few good bits just highlight the general weakness and make for a disappointing experience.
I don't know if this makes sense, but I have the strange feeling I've enjoyed much worse films than this one much more. I started out giving it a 6, but the more I think this one over, the less I appreciate it. In fact I recall fast forwarding about two thirds of the way in, and I really hate having to do that. If this was a free to air movie on TV I would have switched of within 20 mins. This is one of those rare films I recommend people NOT to watch, which I hardly ever do, as even real stinkers usually have something to make you keep watching 'till the end. A poor 4.
Rare Exports (2010)
Quirky, slightly nasty Christmas Flick
Sub-titled film seen on UK DVD release. This starts in a rather bleak Scandinavian style, but there is more to it than that. A bit nasty in parts, with promise of being a weird kind of Christmas fantasy horror. It has much of the feel of "Let the Right One In" (the original), some "Razorback" deadpan black humour, Norwegian style, and a touch of Pans Labarynth. There is quite a slow build up, nicely done, but it all gets very silly at the end, and I felt like the ending was just a bit too daft even for this film. No "Bad Santa" but on a slow night worth watching on DVD all the same - but be prepared for the rather lame ending.
Land of the Lost (2009)
Daft plot, cheesy jokes, over acting - yesss!
Another worthy outing for Will Ferrel - well, it seemed like it must have been written for him. Not many laugh out loud moments - but enough so you know it's a comic film unlike much main stream so-called comedy star turkeys - oops - "vehicles". Anna Friel ("Holly Cantrell") manages not to get over-shadowed playing alongside Mr Ferrel ("Dr. Rick Marshall"), which is some achievement. Danny McBride manfully does his stuff. Jorma Taccone ("Chaka") almost steals the show - some achievement. UK DVD Release - it's a shame they felt they had to chuck in a few "F" obscenities, which sadly make it unsuitable for the younger children (who would have largely been unaware of a lot of the other slightly risky material. The "F"'s didn't really add to the film and without them it would have made a great (if stupid) family picture.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Unsurprising, mish-mash of a plot.
Iron Man 1 was entertaining, with a plot that made sense in it's own terms. IM2 sadly, but unsurprisingly for big studio remakes these days, mostly dispenses with plot, and just goes with the effects. Gwyneth Paltrow tries hard, as does Mickey Rourke. Don Cheadle walks this one, and Robert Downey Junior seems fed up to have to be here, and just goes through the motions in a sulk - I don't blame him given his script. The effects are OK, but not enough to carry this film. Not even worth renting, almost whatever it ends up next to in the budget section of your local store will be far better fare. Sad, given the useful talent. I rarely end a review like this, but you won't regret giving this movie a miss.
Pixar grows up - a beautiful, mature film for children as well as adults
Having seen all the reviews, trailer hype and the rest, I must admit to expecting a little bit of disappointment walking into this movie. So many of todays films aimed at children tell you the entire story before you ever make it into the cinema. Many of the "moments" are so often staged and entirely predictable.
"Up" is really very different. Despite knowing the basic story line from the trailers, the whole movie is still just one surprise after another, full of emotions but not sickly sweet, real laughs come at you from nowhere, you don't feel you have to laugh for the sake of your children. This was a very brave release, it is not your standard Pixar movie, it has a depth that is really astonishing, and you won't forget it.
The Sky at Night (1957)
Excellent, accessible & educational Watch it while you can...
You don't need to know anything about astronomy to enjoy The Sky at Night. Patrick Moore, his co-presenters and guests make sure that whatever topics they are discussing, whether meteoroids or supernovae, dark matter or Moonquakes, all are explained so that casual viewers can have some level of understanding. Educational and accessible, you would have thought the BBC would promote the programme and build on the way it is not afraid to discuss challenging theories and ideas about the stars, the nature of matter, the universe and lots more (pardon the pun). Sadly TSAN appears is being gradually pushed more and more to the margins of BBC output, shifted to BBC World or BBC4, almost no promotion, and with no crossover where it could be most valuable in an educational role, between TSAN and children's programmes. Just like the stars in the heavens, it takes a little bit of time and effort to find TSAN - but it is very much worth your while. Do it while you can!
Being Human (2008)
"The Odd Couple" becomes the "Odd Triple" but in Bristol, England..
Excellent off-beat drama about a vampire, werewolf and ghost who share a flat in suburban Bristol. The script was intelligent, with thoughtful but compelling story lines that did not treat the audience like complete idiots, was perfectly paced and matched to the main characters. The entire cast was excellent, with quality supporting performances as to be expected from Adrian Lester, Natalie Armin & others. The audience response was so good, it has now been remade by the BBC as a full series. As a whole, this was a perfect short film that deserved a lot more recognition. Sadly only one of the original main actors makes it into the remake, but hopefully the BBC won't screw up by trying to overplay their hand. If the rest of the production crew and cast have been retained this could be another classic in the making.
Really excellent and accessible science documentary
This new BBC commissioned series makes a compelling case against the dumb-it-down trend that has taken over most mainstream science related programming in the last few years.
Jim Al-Khalili, the head of theoretical nuclear physics at the University of Surrey, brings absorbing and accessible views on the development of fundamental physics ideas to the screen for both non-scientists and scientists - my(very non-science) pre-WW2 vintage mum was captivated.
Even if you already have a strong science interest/background, this captivating mini-series offers a different take on many familiar (and not-so familiar)names, their relationships and key events (Einstein, Bhor, Curie, Rutherford) that makes it well worth a viewing. Perfect material to encourage a real interest in youngsters as well as the more cynical "eldsters".
Little Voice (1998)
I didn't really want to see this film in the first place - that's why it's taken 8 years . You need to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate many films, otherwise they just don't "click". But it was quid pro quo for the crappy sci-fi and horror and offbeat "arty-type" films I like to watch occasionally.
From all I'd heard about the singing, I thought this film was going to be a musical. So when I realised this wasn't a musical, had Jane Horrocks, Michael Cane and Jim Broadbent in it, I thought it couldn't be all bad.
The film seems to have been accepted as a real peach. Sadly it's not, but instead more of a curates egg - good in parts. The singing is good - but not exceptional enough to carry the film on it's own. Michael Cane puts in a very classy performance, and Jane Horrocks certainly does a job with the lines she was given. Jim Broadbent has a marginal, but significant role. Ewan McGregor, does OK with his 5 minutes but his character's involvement after the first 10 minutes seems to be a bit of an afterthought. Annette Badland, is a really excellent actress with a wide range(Archers and Dr Who fans will know this), and was wasted on this part, though she plays it well. Brenda Blethyn must have been told "play an actress who is hamming up a performance as a busty irritating Hilda Ogden on speed". If so, she did a very good job.
Somehow it just felt as if they had rehearsed their roles separately, and the director has then taken the first cut on every shoot to get it over with as quickly as possible. Even though I wasn't expecting much from this, it feels like this film could have been so much better than it turned out to be.
All in all not a bad film, but somehow it's much less good than the sum of the performances - frustratingly disappointing.
Rock Family Trees (1995)
Haven't seen this since it was first aired which must be more than 10 years ago now - surely earlier than 1995? I do remember that this series was a "must watch". Some great music, and even if you didn't like that weeks act much, really informative and insightful. I can't recall all the acts that were covered, but the Deep Purple program was just brilliant. I wasn't much of a fan, but Spinal Tap had nothing on these fellas. Surprised the Beeb didn't do a few more series, but then again with most "stars" these days even more money grabbing and with hyper-diva-like pretensions, the contract negotiations would probably take 'till the 2100's, by which time the BBC will be run out of some students back room on 5p a week. I'm sure they would get a great response for re-runs of this or DVD release - same contract issues as the Whistle Test sessions probably. Shame.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Weakest storyline and script of the series, but good production values and cast
I'll start by admitting that I wasn't really expecting a great deal from this movie, and so wasn't disappointed.
If you enjoy powerful, tight, quality scripting and cohesive story lines, and come at this without having seen the other three in the series, you'll probably wonder what the fuss is about, and agree with me that this feels just like a standard studio money making exercise, and that it would have been better going straight to video. I'm pretty sure it would have done so if it hadn't cost the studios so much to make and if the they were not certain that public was still desperate to see anything new from the Alien franchise store. That we will still spend hard earned dollars on this insipid stuff, is a tribute to the expectations raised by the first two films in the franchise.
**SPOILER** IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS FILM YET, THIS CAN'T SPOIL THE FILM ANY MORE THAN THE SCRIPT WILL
Effects/Look and Feel
The look and feel of the film is generally very good, apart from the **"Son of Mummy Alien"** which is just very sad looking all round. CGI effects, stages and scenery are all pretty well carried off. I imagine a lot of the budget was spent in this department. This area has served all the Alien films pretty well, and no-one has dared screw this up badly (yet) in any of the films.
Great leading actors with a very high quality supporting cast, you definitely get the strong feeling they were all trying very hard to keep it all hanging together and make it work. I've no idea what they cost, but I've seen most of these actors turn in very decent performances in other films.
This is what I think lets the film down. The actors, costumes, staging and effects are all just so much better than the incredibly poor, vapid and soggy script. It feels like there had been a great idea and script, but then someone went and lost the real script and scriptwriter the night before filming, and then just pulled a 4th grader in to recreate the entire story again from a two line summary, scene by scene, as they were filming. Having thought about this some more, and reading through several other comments I realise that is a bit harsh. The director is great when able to work from scratch - his body of work proves that, with several really inventive and interesting films. The writer is not cut out for this kind of film at all, he's really best suited to the fairly lightweight TV style teen dramas, and does these well. I think the writer needed an entirely different take on this script, given audience (for that read "Alien Fans") expectations, with it played straight down the line. Doesn't mean there can't be some humour - but that should be from interplay between characters, and not from knowing wise-crack devices for the audience. Often through the film, you had the feeling the writer didn't expect his audience to really believe any of the story, and got bored at points, slotting in quite a few pretty hopeless throwaway lines. Fair enough, many writers just don't get or like the whole (too?)"serious" sc-fi genre. But it does look like Mr Whedon was never very comfortable with this one. Still, that's not to say there isn't room for a full-on Alien send up in the "Airplane" or "Naked Gun" style.
Marks out of 10
I've given it a 4, as I think that is what I would have given if I'd not seen the first two films. If you make any comparison to the first two films and their decent scripts and direction, the mark must be 3. Almost embarrassingly cheesy in parts, but saved from the pit by the nice presentation and interesting cast.
The "What Else Is On" Test
If this is on, and there's nothing decent on any other channel, you'd probably stick with it until the very silly last 20 mins, when it gets annoyingly bad.
You'd have to be a hard core Alien fan to buy a film you'll never put on more than once.
Over 5 and want a story well told and entertaining? Don't see this.
Very poor fare. Previous comments about the scripting are right on the mark.
You can see what was asked of the filmmakers - do a Shrek/Shrek2 with the Zoo, and get that same magical blend of old fashioned fairytale storytelling for the little ones. Throw in some amusing adult references and chat for the grown-ups and we're all kept happy.
Well this film really falls between two stools and achieves neither aim. Having said that, this mediocre fare would have been OK for an hour, but apart from the very slick and impressive animation, the film was uninspiring and given the thin material, overlong. My wife was snoring after 20 minutes.
Probably would have been better as a straight to video, and even then, strictly for those infants who won't worry about the relatively poor script and who know how to switch off the DVD when they've had enough.
The Larry Sanders Show (1992)
Sardonic, Acid, Cutting, Cynical, Mean, Nasty
Yes, The Larry Sanders Show (TLSS)is all of these things and more. This was, no make that is, the most consistently funniest show I've seen on TV.
The material really spoke for itself, the actors excelled most of the time, and you never felt that they were shoving the comic moments up your mush just to make sure you knew it was funny, or trying to be smart alec with the script for the sake of it. It didn't need a laughter track.
The comparison with Seinfeld is pertinent, and I have to say that Seinfield left me cold, a very bad case of "Emperors' New Clothes". I could never understand all the plaudits, but maybe its just not to my taste. I think it was very good in the sense that for many, it pulled all the comedy levers by the book, but because of that it was just too obvious. It needs saying though, if only because Seinfeld has become the byword amongst the masses for classic comedy writing over that period.(I think this kind of commentary is apt given the material in the LSS show).
TLSS was THE show about the shallowness of TV and film business personalities, even down to the real life LSSish saga of Gary Shandling falling out and suing his one time friend and manager, Brad Grey for $100m.
So then, if you've never seen Larry Sanders, try it - truly a work of art. If you like Seinfeld, you probably won't like TLSS, but hey, it's (still) a freeish country.