Film Reviews by DJ

Welcome to DJ's film reviews page. DJ has written 11 reviews and rated 218 films.

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Harriet

Formulaic

(Edit) 26/03/2021

I found this film shallow and trivialising. I thought it shoe-horned an important piece of American history into an outdated romantic-adventure movie template, straight out of 1950s Hollywood. The dialog was embarrassing; the interaction between the (highly talanted) actors was wooden and stilted; the sets were confected and unrealistic; all sense of history and genuine humanity was lacking; cliches were abundant; it lacked any sense of real hazard or suspense. After watching half the film, I found it too painful to continue. Apart from the fact that it addresses a subject that has been largely ignored by the world of film, I can find little to recommend it

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The Portuguese Nun

Not my kind of religion

(Edit) 22/11/2020

This director has a "style": expressionless actors delivering lines without emotion or inflection; dialogue that is verbose and (faux?) intellectual without any of the characteristics of normal conversation; depopulated sets - even in circumstances that would be bustling with life; very long, lingering shots panning across the set or the cityscape; artfully prepared scenes that somehow feature a 'picture within the picture' - an actor playing a nun encounters a nun, actors making love in a movie within the movie reproduce the scene in their 'real' life etc.

So it's an Emporer's new clothes movie: you either think it's terribly clever and interesting and different and challenging and a brilliant way to illustrate some philosophical arguments, or you think it's tedious, contrived, self-absorbed trivia. Some reviewers gave this film 5 stars, so it's clearly my failing that I fall firmly into the second group

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Waiting for Happiness

Part formed

(Edit) 22/11/2020

By the same director as Timbuktu, but less well-crafted. It contains some of the same beautiful camera work and ideas, but the plot, character motivations and messaging to the audience are all less effective, which made it a frustrating experience for me

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Copying Beethoven

Lacking Imagination

(Edit) 15/10/2020

I could not do much better than Phillip French's very amusing review in the Guardian when this was first released - he effortlessly tears this to pieces, and his sarcasm is well deserved. The film is trite, contrived, cliche-ridden and smug. It's mildly amusing and quite pretty; the acting is not quite hammy; the plot is pedestrian and predictable. Most ironically: the film makes a great deal of Beethoven's deafness and the way it impairs his quality of life but, er, the DVD has no subtitles. Lacking imagination, indeed!

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Hide Your Smiling Faces

Exasperated

(Edit) 16/06/2020

Yet another set of film-makers who do not have the common courtesy or the respect for their audience to put subtitles on their DVD; along with CP not flagging deficient films like this so that two wasted postal deliveries can be avoided. After so many years of disappointment, it all gets a bit wearing. Only awarded one star because I can't figure out a way to give it less

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Honeytrap

Who knows?

(Edit) 12/04/2020

Who knows whether it's any good?! Yet another film made in the second decade of the 21st century that does not have the courtesy to include subtitles on its DVD, so cutting it off from 15% of its potential audience. As it happens, it's the second CP disk I have received this week with contempt for 1 in 7 of its customers. Cinema Paradiso is no help, as it fails to indicate the presence (or not) of subtitles on any of the disks it offers. This movie in particular features characters with strong colloquial accents and quick-fire delivery, so even my partner - with sound hearing - was lost without them. After 15 minutes of fruitless effort, we gave up. Frankly...infuriating

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The Rider

Mesmerising, intricate, alien

(Edit) 21/03/2020

I lived for 2 years in a poor part of sub-Saharan Africa and I felt I understood and had more in common with the lives and world-view of the people there than the world depicted in this film - which seems truly alien to a middle-class, middle-England wage-slave like me. Nevertheless, it is a moving insight into a sub-culture within a sub-culture in one small corner of the United States which, at the same time, manages to be a meditation on moving on when life delivers you the hardest of knocks, a portrait of a loving relationship between a flawed father and a damaged son, an illumination of how inappropriate the term "learning difficulties" is for people who have so much to teach, and a cinematically beautiful portrait of the American landscape. The charisma and charm of the leading actor are built on his empathy with animals, his mixture of steely determination to persevere and his personal warmth - both with his young sister and his injured friend. All this without, I felt, an ounce of false sentimentality or over-hyped emotion. If the word "authentic" means anything, this is it

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The Two Popes

Very well-crafted

(Edit) 25/02/2020

Highly entertaining. Two veteran actors at the top of their game. Almost certainly historical bunk, but don't let that put you off. The film manages to weave a serious consideration of the Argentinian "Dirty War" into what is essentially a light-hearted movie without being gratuitous or offensive - in fact I found parts of it genuinely moving. Well worthwhile

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The Beekeeper

From a bygone era - not in a good way

(Edit) 29/12/2019

An unhappy combination of visually unappealing, tedious and clichéd narrative and some very unpleasant scenes - I wonder why I stuck with it to the end. Actors who failed to project their feelings or the nature of their relationships to the audience, leading to actions without apparent motivation or cause. Some 'sex' scenes that contrived to be, at the same time, pornographic and un-arousing - deeply dubious in a post-#Metoo context. I'd quite like to read the young actor's perspective on the filming of those scenes - might she share have a lot in common with Maria Schneider? Even the beekeeping activity is factually dubious. My advice is don't waste your time

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Phantom Thread

Love it or...

(Edit) 21/11/2019

Obviously a Marmite film - just look at the other reviews. Main-stream professional critics who I admire gave it five stars. It beautifully creates a 1950s world of wealth, privilege and a life of the coat-tails of the powerful - not unlike many of the films made during that time itself, depicting the upper-middle-class life of "the other half" (compared to most people who saw them in the one-and-nines). I myself found that world itself alienating and the self-obsessed, cocooned, dysfunctional lives of the people placed in it even more so. I could not work out why I should be interested for two hours, or invest any emotion in the outcome. The sado-masochistic plot twists towards the end at least added a bit of intrigue but seemed to me discordant with characters created up to that point. The lack of self-awareness and perspective that each main character was assumed to possess seemed to me incredible. Daniel Day-Lewis is in full-bore 'leading actor' mode throughout, and I found it impossible to get past the acting and see the character - perhaps because I couldn't work out why I should bother. As you may have worked out, I'm afraid I'm in the 'hate it' camp.

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Backtrack

Unforgiveable

(Edit) 06/03/2018

Thanks to the reviewer who highlighted lack of subtitles. Makes me so annoyed that even new films can be released on DVD without them. About 5% of CP films I have to send back without viewing because there is no alert that subtitles are missing :-/

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