Film Reviews by RD

Welcome to RD's film reviews page. RD has written 64 reviews and rated 69 films.

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The Good Shepherd

Dull, badly produced and baffling

(Edit) 23/02/2021

The essence of espionage, which is what this film is about, is the constant effort in keeping information from others. This should really be between the characters of the film, and not between the film and the viewers. There are many, many short scenes that leave the viewer wondering what on earth was that about, following on to subsequent scenes that just don't seem to connect to the previous one.

In many ways this is a fragmented film, confounded by the lack of dialogue or emotion from the leading character played by Matt Damon. Maybe this is how the real person was, but if you're making a film you have to get the viewer involved in understanding the leading character and this implies more information is needed in the script. Otherwise he just floats almost silently through the film.

There's a huge amount of "temporal whiplash" in the film, with scenes rapidly alternating between the 1940s and the 1960s, with a couple of them being unannounced by the onscreen graphics which led to a fair bit of confusion. It looked like the film was deliberately trying to be obtuse and keep important plot information from the viewer, this is not a new trick in films but is very tiresome if overdone, like this film is.

There are also mutterings in the dialogue that are incomprehensible. We went backwards and forwards over several phrases several times and could still not work out the words. One phrase sounded like "A tremble two stun" no matter how many times we heard it.

This could have been a good film if made well, but it turned out to be very superficial, uninvolving and in the end a waste of a couple of hours.

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Vacuuming Completely Nude

Technically awful

(Edit) 27/01/2021

The title gives you false hopes, maybe of a surreal sophisticated film with plenty of imagination. The reality is so much more of a shock because of this perhaps.

The first impressions are poor, as the film quality is dire with a blurred, very grainy image that carries on throughout the film, sort of like poor quality VHS and 8mm home movies mixed together. The lighting is bad as well, in fact very amateur, as well as the mono soundtrack.

The film itself never seems to get beyond a lot of shouting and a silly road rage style of driving, both good acting skills displayed by Mr Spall, but the constant onslaught of this does lead to viewer fatigue, especially in the absence of anything developing plotwise.

We stayed with it until nearly halfway through the film to see if it was going anywhere, but there was no great development in the plot and the home video style of film along with the shouting led to us giving up.

It's like paradise when the film stops!

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Little Dorrit

Lavish and star studded but dialogue is technically flawed

(Edit) 08/12/2020

This is a great double adaptation of the book, well acted by so many excellent actors such as Alec Guinness, Derek Jacobi and Max Wall. Miriam Margolyes is quite breathtaking as the effervescent Flora. The sets and the lighting are not only good but really do capture the essence and mood of the story.

Alas, the soundtrack is fatally flawed! Not even a small imbalance nor a subjective issue, but a great gaping monumental mistake in the mixing.

This film has the dialogue stem at a level about 10dB lower than either the music or effects tracks, with the effect that the music or ambience often drowns out the dialogue. To hear the dialogue, you will have to turn the volume up quite a lot to try to make out what they are saying, and when the music or a sound effect comes in you will be deafened!

(The final mix session of a film soundtrack is called the printmastering session, and the three previously mixed tracks for Sound Effects, Music and Dialogue (known individually as "stems") are brought together in a relatively simple session to make sure all is balanced perfectly. Traditionally, Dialogue is the priority track, which is why the lead mixer handles the dialogue mixing, it tells the story.)

The dialogue has been recorded on the production set, ie not overdubbed in a studio afterwards. Close up shots give quite wonderfully clear dialogue, but as the actor turns away or is more distant, the dialogue often becomes muffled and indistinct. Both Amy and Arthur are prone to bouts of soft whispering which become incoherent also. The opening scene with Arthur conversing in an Inn is a good example of the whispering problem.

So even without the -10dB dialogue mixing fault, the soundtrack has other problems, which is a really bad shame as the script contains so much of Dickens's classic mastery of descriptive language.

Not all is lost however, this film can be enjoyed with skilfull use of the volume control and really hard concentration, coupled with some attempts at lip-reading.

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Catherine the Great

Catherine the not so great

(Edit) 27/11/2020

Let's start with the good parts, and many aspects of this film are so good they are indeed worthy of Oscar nominations. The cinematography is superb, with atmospheric outdoor scenes, and sumptuous indoor settings of such incredible grandeur, lit and photographed perfectly and with stunning costumes to add to the splendour of the Russian court of Catherine the Great. Effects are gory and lifelike but never overdone, and the sound is rich, clear and well mixed. Music is beautiful and mixed well in surround.

The storyline concentrates on the on-off romance between Catherine and Potemkin, maybe a little too much as there isn't much else to the film. The characters flip between silly spats and gooey sentiment with a lot of exotic bonking inbetween. The dialogue is exceptionally naff, and sounds like two 20th century schoolkids battling with their first love affair behind the bikesheds.

The dialogue is certainly the worst part of the film, for example when Catherine berates her useless son Paul, she looks at him and in homage to Dad's Army says with a straight face "You stupid boy". Guffaws emanated from our sofa at this. Then when Potemkin boards the royal barge and runs up the steps shouting "let's get this show on the road" you know the script is seriously quality-challenged.

Catherine is at this time the ruler of all Russia, possibly the most powerful ruler in the world, but Dame Helen is showing all the gravitas of an irate pub landlady at closing time. Lots of effing and other oaths which do sound odd and seem out of place which spoil the film even further. Surprisingly this is not one of her great roles, as she is obviously struggling to show her enormous acting capabilities with such a poor script. Potemkin shows a thin portrayal of a rising then fading military star in fits and starts as each part of the script allows, but never really develops any depth of character.

It all goes to show how so much of a film can be great but if the script and dialogue is badly mis-matched then the whole thing flops. And this film does flop.

We struggled through episodes one and two hoping for some improvements, then episode three filled out the storyline a little more, but I'm afraid we nodded off a few times in episode four and greeted the closing titles with a feeling of relief.

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Cold Blood Legacy

Bad in many ways

(Edit) 27/11/2020

So much of this is utter trash.

The story is very, very simple, a hitman is stalked by the daughter of a target and some cops try and join in. The storyline doesn't get any more details to improve it, and the whole film as so badly made it warrants a place in film schools for a study in poor film making.

Unintelligible dialogue, odd edit cuts, broken story and bad acting make this truly awful.

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Anna

Not as bad as expected

(Edit) 26/10/2020

I was surprised to find this had got into my rental list, it sounds trivial from the description and the reviews support that. Maybe it was the lure of Luc Besson that put it into my list.

It's trite and very superficial, with plenty of very silly action sequences that exude blood and bullets and great choreography if nothing else. This is the danger of tarting up death and violence to be portrayed as nothing deeper than a dance sequence.

The plot is quite well strung together, I had no problems with the regular time shifting, "3 years earlier" shortly followed by "2 years later" and so on as it all seemed to make sense. Acting is very poor but hey, with all the action and the cute models, who's interested? Filming and sound is excellent and the music track is good also.

All in all a film that ends up not as bad as you'd expect, and if it's a cold day and it's raining outside, it's good enough to fill the time until the weather clears.

Continuity alert: in the all-action escape scene from the KGB headquarters, watch out for the star's stockings that turn into tights then back again to stockings. The magic of cinema.

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Joker

Slow and pointless

(Edit) 19/10/2020

Technically the film is very good with excellent cinematography and a stunning 7.1 soundtrack with all actors give fine performances. This could be why it was nominated for the Oscars, but the whole film seems to be so one-dimensional and painfully slow in many places that it never really gets going at all. This is possibly because the storyline is so very simple and the plot is paper thin. It's just never at all that interesting, and so many scenes are long and drawn out when nothing actually happens. I only just avoided the temptation to fast-forward through the film at several places.

It's not a terrible film, just slow and pointless. There's a scene of extreme violence and blood spattering, possibly put in to impress the young section of the audience, but it has no integration in the storyline, it just happens.

Still, if films like this earn enough box-office dollars to finance other, good films, I'm not one to complain.

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'Round Midnight

Dreary but some good bits of music

(Edit) 11/09/2020

This meanders from start to the finish, often with hinted parts of the storyline giving an empty feeling to the film and using musicians who give a very wooden approach to acting. Some of the music scenes are good, although Dexter Gordon's saxophone level could have been lowered to fit the balance of the rest of the band as it did seem a bit too loud. We stuck it to the end but were glad it was over.

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Popeye

Dismal

(Edit) 18/08/2020

Of course it's difficult to turn a cartoon into an acted film, and this one illustrates why. The story is very weak (at least I think there was one anyway) and the soundtrack is a constant babble of voices with incoherent dialogue buried somewhere inside. The musical pieces are painfully poor and sound awful.

The lead characters however are well acted, look good and Robin Williams makes the most of it, but the overall effect is a right old mess of a film.

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Revenge

Tedious gore

(Edit) 27/07/2020

It's a film that contains a lot of blood, internal organs, horrific injuries shown in great detail, knife wounds in close up, and all done with such careful photography the producers must be congratulated on the shock and realism of this aspect of the film.

Unfortunately they must have been so busy planning the almost non-stop gory bits they forgot to add anything else to make it into a story and a worthwhile film. No character depth, no development, no twists of the plot (plot - ha!). It's a non-film, just lots of gore. Girl gets raped, they hunt for her as she hunts for them, lots of injuries in close up and ultimately death. That's about it.

The only plus side I can ascertain is that the photography is excellent, especially showing the Moroccan scenery.

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A Brighter Summer Day

Not much happens

(Edit) 02/07/2020

- at least in the first 90 minutes, which is how long we lasted until we baled out. I had nodded off several times whilst waiting for some sort of storyline or meaning to appear, but apart from a few gang related arguments and a budding romance that never got going, there was nothing detectable as a plot to keep our interest. Nicely shot with some good cinematography, but nothing in the storyline department. Some shouting.

The sleeve says it's 236 minutes long - phew! Maybe something comes along between 90 and 236 minutes I will never know, but if it hasn't got going by 90 minutes then it's back in the envelope and on to more worthwhile pastimes.

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Burning

empty plot

(Edit) 22/06/2020

The plot is more of a mixture of threads, all of which meander very slowly through the film, with very little development or resolution. It becomes a very slow film, with nothing much being attempted, but little starts of what could be intriguing storylines. Well filmed and well acted, but empty in the depth of story department.

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The Judge and the Assassin

Unmissable enjoyable classic

(Edit) 09/01/2020

The story follows the true story of a deranged sergeant who kills and when captured develops a seemingly sympathetic relationship with an ambitious judge.

The charm of this film is in the attention to detail throughout. Michel Galabru gives an electrifying portrayal of the mad sergeant from start to finish, and Philippe Noiret gives a performance that is cool and controlled as the judge.

The story is packed full of accompanying plot features, and all is filmed beautifully with great attention to locations and sets. This is a great film which addresses the problem of madness and responsibility in only the way that a carefully written screenplay can achieve.

The dialogue is well written and important throughout, and if like me you rely on the English subtitles then you really have to concentrate on both the reading of these and taking in the stunning visual aspects of the film.

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Ray Donovan: Series 1

Shallow and tedious

(Edit) 06/01/2020

Ray is the strong silent type. Too silent unfortunately, with very few lines to really get going. All characters are thinly portrayed, and with frequent scenes of slow sentimentality, makes the film hard to get into and tedium reigns.

We made it through episode one, and persisted with episode two in case it developed more. It did, but not nearly enough to involve us.

Overrated and lacking in depth.

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The Tunnel: Series 1

Not too bad

(Edit) 23/11/2019

It's a brave project to clone the stunning Scandinavian series based on the Denmark to Sweden bridge, copied across to the channel tunnel. Some amount of diversion from the original would have stopped direct comparisons, but we have a lead character as a blonde with social problems and a penchant for sudden sex, driving her own Porsche. The male lead is a family man with a recent vasectomy and a dysfunctional home life. All this is identical to The Bridge.

It's actually a half decent thriller series, up to general UK standards and better than some, but after enjoying The Bridge, there's a sad feeling of deja-view throughout this.

The title music is awful and some of the dialogue is undecipherable.

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