Film Reviews by JG

Welcome to JG's film reviews page. JG has written 28 reviews and rated 199 films.

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Traces

Good UK drama

(Edit) 30/04/2020

This is basically a crime drama but has more to it than that. It is set in Dundee, which as the extras say is unusual. Although there are a lot of Scottish accents there are American and English ones too. To my southerner's ears none of the dialogue was hard to follow, which can be a failing in modern productions. Molly Windsor is Emma Hedges, the heroine, and the story revolves around her quest to find out about the murder of her mother when she was young. It includes the workings of the Scottish Institute for Forensics and (Anthropology?), the Dundee CID and a building firm which gives it more depth than just a "catch the drug pushers" crime story. It is also a love story which adds more to the mix. It was well written and well acted. One short scene I really enjoyed was between Professor Sarah Gordon the head of Sifa, D.I.Neil McKinven and the heroine Emma . The two look at each other, and Emma looks at both then turns away with a small smile. Although there is no dialogue and it is not explicitly stated, we deduce there is an attachment between the scientist and detective. This subtle drawing of the watcher into the plot is what made it an enjoyable series. It is only 6 episodes, but this means it is not drawn out and can be watched in an evening provided you start early enough. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Somali Pirate Takedown: The True Story of Captain Philips

Follow up to the film

(Edit) 06/02/2020

If you haven't seen the Tom Hanks film, see that first. This is the same story, although there are minor differences, the main events are the same. The film is presented very much from Captain Phillips' persective, the documentary less so with Captain Phillips playing a supporting role in that we see him mostly in the third person even though he took the major decisions. The last part of the documentary shows US navy footage of the actual event and is very much from the US navy perspective.

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Manhunt

Real life crime thriller

(Edit) 06/02/2020

This is produced as a three part crime series but it is based on the memoirs of an actual met detective, Colin Sutton and the hunt for a serial killer. Martin Clunes plays the lead role very well, bringing a down to earth seriousness to the role that is hard to reconcile with his other TV roles involving comedy. All the cast give good performances and portray very well the huge effort that goes into solving crimes when evidence that will convict is hard to come by. There is some tension between characters but it doesn't evolve into the melodrama that soaps and thriller crime series descend to. It all seems very real and true to life. It paints things as they are, as a documentary would, but is satisfying as a drama. The production team must have put a lot of effort into trying to do justice to the memory of the real life victims. In my view they can be proud of what they achieved.

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Lucy

Luc Besson goes Sci Fi

(Edit) 03/02/2020

No thrilling "Taxi" car chases this time but lots of triad gun fights. A pity that Luc Besson was infected with Tony Buzan's nonsense "We only use 10% of our brain". Since several decades after he said this, we still have little idea how the brain works, it has become obviously a ridiculous claim to make. Still if we forgive Luc for this as it was not his mistake and go with the hypothesis, the film is entertaining enough, especially with Scarlett Johansson, and Morgan Freeman to help it along. Luc Besson plays a cameo (uncredited) role as a doctor. The morale behind the film is vaild even if the argument is twadlle.

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Cold Call

Modern British crime drama.

(Edit) 28/01/2020

This is a commentary on life today. The have-nots caring for the haves and the haves making money from the have-nots. It has much the feel of a TV soap about it, plenty of shouting between the characters. The lead role is a carer who sells her house and downsizes when her daughter gets married so that she can give her a good start. She gets a cold call which seems genuine but she ends up losing all her money. She goes to a self help group (like AA) and meets an acquaintance from the past who offers to help her. She is reluctant at first, because he was a bit of a shady character in the past. However it works out and he gets her to get a job as a carer for the man who stole her money whose mother has dementia. It gets quite involved and complicated before being finally resolved, not everyone getting quite what they wanted.

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10th and Wolf

American crime drama

(Edit) 28/01/2020

This has many of the elements of a typical gangster film, drugs and organised crime but differs in that the hero is an ex marine, though this is not a war film. He joins the marines to escape his family's involvement with organised crime but does something stupid which gives the FBI (or one of those law enforcement agencies) leverage to get him to work undercover for them. What he did didn't seem in character and didn't seem to explain why he was forced to go rogue, but if you accept that they have a hold over him then the rest of the film is enjoyable enough. Plenty of action and some rough justice are handed out. Of course they try and shaft him into working permanently for them but he has other ideas. The title is explained at the end of the film. A street corner is significant to him which is the corner of 10th and Wolf Street,

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The Wife

More for the theatre than the cinema

(Edit) 01/11/2019

If you enjoy theatre then you could like this, the acting is good. However if you like some scenery or action, things which are better on screen than on stage, then like me you could be disappointed. It is all talking heads and so is much better suited to the wooden boards.

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Cold Pursuit

Black comedy

(Edit) 21/10/2019

This is a remake for English speaking audiences of the Norwegian film "In Order of Disppearance" by the original director. The film was set in Kehoe (I have to admit I don't know which country that is in) but it was shot in Canada ,and the Serbian mafia were replaced by native Americans, but otherwise it follows the same plot. The surname of the main character has the same joke on it. I preferred the Norwegian version which I saw first, as the subtle humour was more evident, though they are both played as a straight thriller, the humour comes from the dialogue. The Norwegian one has the advantage of being able to play on cultural differences between the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes as well as between the Scandanavian and the Serb gangsters. This latter translated well into the differences between the newcomers and the natives to the Americas, much like a western.

The whole film starts with a mistake; two friends are taken by gangsters because one of them stole drugs from them. The culprit escapes, so they murder the one they have, unaware that he was innocent. His father, a snow plough driver takes revenge which in turn kicks off a turf war between the two rival drug gangs who had previously agreed to split the territory between them. In both films you get a body count as the deaths mount up, which I thought added to the humour ,unlike one of the reviewers (check out each icon for the cross). The snow plough driver in the original was Stellan SkarsgÄrd and in the remake was Liam Neeson who both portrayed well a gentle family man who normally wouldn't hurt a fly, but takes revenge when his son was wrongly killed. His wife was played by Laura Dern, not Laura Linney.

If you are OK with subtitles then seek out In Order of Disappearance, otherwise this film is an easier watch though I felt it was not quite as good as the original.

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The Blue Angel

Warning: This is a classic.

(Edit) 16/10/2019

This movie has a reputation as being a great movie and also as the one that made Marlene Deitrich famous. Being a movie fan I was eager to see this, but was disappointed. I didn't finish the movie.

My disappointment was because it was not what I was expecting. Marlene Deitrich is not the main character and does not play the central role. I got exasperated with the classroom scenes at the beginning and was impatient for the film to get going.

The film was made a long while ago, not long after the silent era, and should not be judged by today's production standards. It is also a foreign film and not a Hollywood product. If you want a film that thrills and looks polished then go elsewhere. If you are prepared to judge the film according to the standards of the time and follow the story it tells rather than the historical reputation it has acquired then you will get more from it. Particularly if you acknowledge that this is a continental film and not a mid Atlantic one. The review by AC gives a fair assessment from someone who understood the film. I do not understand why someone down rated it, perhaps they thought they were down rating the film, they had already done that by awarding 1 star.

The two disks have the same film but are different versions. Disk 1 is the original language version with subtitles. If you can manage subtitles this is the one to watch, particularly if you have a little German. The second disk is a separate re-shooting of the same film with English dialogue spoken by the original actors. The translation is not as good as the subtitles, some dialogue is omitted and the sound quality is poor. If you really can't get on with subtitles then it may be worth trying but I recommend avoiding it and watching the first disk.

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Levison Wood: From Russia to Iran

Michael Palin with a beard

(Edit) 11/10/2019

Don't confuse Levinson Wood with Bretton Woods like I did. This is a travel documentary not about world wide monetry systems. If you are in to travel programs you could enjoy this. He goes to some interesting and unusual places in a part of the world that is little known in the western world. As it was not what i wanted I didn't watch it other than the opening. There is a map which shows where it all is, which was a revelation to me. It is also very mountainous so there could be some fantastic scenery.

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Three Identical Strangers

Best documentary I have seen in a long while

(Edit) 30/09/2019

Whether you will like this as much as I did depends upon your interests. I rate this higher than Snowdon, though perhaps that is more important to most people as it affects our lives in this "modern" world.

This film is cleverly constructed, it starts out as an incredible story, who would believe this happened in real life. It is told by two of the brothers in a way that draws you in to learn about this amazimg cooincedence. The story then expands out into what they discover about their circumstances. The film takes you on a somewhat parallel journey that they must have had. From bewilderent, through joy on to wondering and ending on incomprehension.

This is an important documentary that, like the Snowdon one, needed to be made. If you are interested in the Nurture verses Nature question, saw the documentary Das Experiment about the Stanford Prison Experiment (see wikipedia) or have knowledge of any of the Nazi experiments relating to Eugenics then this is a must see, but otherwise the documentary is well made so that anyone can watch this without delving too deeply into the moral questions it raises.

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The Little Drummer Girl

Good thriller

(Edit) 06/09/2019

This is quite a recent film (2018), but it could have been made anytime since the Munich Massacre, to which it refers briefly. In some ways it feels older as the Palestinian question has been supplanted by Muslim Extremism now, but the Israel/Palestine conflict goes on, we have just become desensitised to it. Ostensibly it is written from a Western perspective, the Palestinians are terrorists and the bad guys, the rest of us are the good guys and do no wrong. Superficially the plot follows this line, but if you pay attention and think behind the words it is not that clear cut. The Palestinian rebels are portrayed sympathetically and it is possible to understand their cause. The film does refer to the role of the British in creating the problem in the first place. It is human to ignore ones own provocation and complain that the other side started it, "unprovoked retaliation?".

I never did understand the title, there is a reference in the film to a drummer boy, in about the fourth or fifth episode, but this didn't explain it for me. Never mind the title, it has to have one; it is an exciting enough thriller. You do have to pay attention at the beginning and follow which character is which, but this is not too difficult. Some films make this harder by choosing actors or actresses which look alike. There is some of this here in that Gadi (Skaarsgard) and Michel look similar, but Gadi impersonates Michel in the first episodes, so this is a good thing. The heroine Charlie (Florence Pugh) is new to me but carried the part well. She doesn't look like a tough, action movie star, but then the Palestinians wanted someone who would pass as normal and not attract attention for the role they wanted her to play. The Israelis wanted her to be able to act the role of a wannabe terrorist. So she played this rather well, in a way the role was easy in that she had to play an actress at which she is obviously good. This is exemplified in the final episode when Khalil gets her to tell him the truth; contrast her performance here, when she admits to being an actress, against her earlier self assured behaviour.

In my view the film is cleverly made in that you can watch it which ever view you hold on the Palestinian question. I enjoyed it.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Shadow Line: Series 1

Money in bent coppers

(Edit) 13/08/2019

A Detective Inspector returns to work after being shot during an operation that went wrong. His first assignment is a mob killing of a drug baron. What everyone wants to find out, from rival crime syndicates to the police is, "Who did the killing?".

It is well cast with actors who look the part, but able to embellish on that by their acting. Gatekeeper for example. Stephen Rhea reminded me of Nigel Slater with his gentle manner and calm speech. This made his actions all the more shocking in the later episodes. Jay, (Rafe Spall) is a wild mixture of viciousness and charm, totally unpredictable, but somehow likeable. I could go on, they're all good.

If you want a happy ending, this is not priority watching. If you are willing to journey with the author through modern society, reflecting on what is right or wrong, and from whose point of view, then you should be satisfied. You wont get answers, but much to think about.

One topical theme commented on is the pension crisis; the problem of having too many people on pensions and not enough working people to pay for them. Don't let politicians watch this series. They have enough bad ideas of their own without taking inspiration from this to solve the pension problem.

It is possible to critics this, but the faults are minor and perhaps subjective. I found the plot a little too convoluted for me to follow easily, but the overall arc is easy enough to comprehend once you get to the end. This does allow for a second watching after a suitable interval (see footnote). The implication in the story, and hence the title, is that there is a fine line between right and wrong and that many of the characters in this story tried to walk along it, some straying one side, some another

Although this is British and the characters are British, in the opening scene the police had an American look about them due to their caps. I don't know why they had what looked like "Scene of Crime shoe coverings" on their caps. I have never seen this before, maybe it was protection from the rain. I also don't know why I thought this made them look American. As soon as sergeant Foley spoke however we knew we were in London.

The strangeness of the caps added to the success of the opening scene which was cleverly done and drew you in. The key to a good introduction is to pose questions that don't need answers, but arouse curiosity. This author knows how to do it.

There are drugs, there is violence, there are killings, there is loyalty, there is betrayal, but I found it watchable and enjoyable.

footnote

Six months later I didn't recognise the title and borrowed it again. I recognised immediately that I had seen it before, which shows how effective the opening sequence was, but could not recall the plot. As more characters appeared I remembered some of the twists but still could not recall the overall plot. Halfway through episode one I had remembered three significant events which were spoilers, but I still wanted to watch it again. I would say that six months is a bare minimum, but at least a year would be better. A second viewing is definitely possible; even if you now know where it is going, the plot and performances can still be enjoyed.

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Killing Eve

The title says it all.

(Edit) 10/06/2019

A series on BBC over two years. I picked up on the ads for the start of the second series and binge watched both via streaming. The ideal way to watch long complicated series, with twists, especially if they air over more than one year. Or you could wait for it on Cinema Paradiso.

It features some good acting by Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, Kim Bodnia and Sean Delaney who all play the roles required for their character with perfection. I had seen Sandra Oh before, not in Grey's Anatomy as IMDB suggests, but in Sideways; the others however (except for Kim Bodnia) were all new to me. Jodie Comer was lucky in having the best role where she could showcase her amazing acting talent covering comedy, action thriller, drama and romance with perfect British (adult and young girl), Russian, French and Australian accents. Not bad for a scouser. Her American accent was not as good, which was referenced in the script.

The series gets its thrills from the world of counter espionage and contract killings, drama from the character study of a psycopath and an investigator full of intuition and the strange connection that builds up between them, and its suspense from never quite knowing who was on which side. Kenny, Constantine and Carolyn all have strange characters too that are glimpsed but not fully revealed. The series also focuses on the surveillance and collection of data which has become a dominant feature of our modern world.

The series was also cleverly titled with it seeming inappropriate and right alternately as things progress, only becoming clear at the end, or did it? IMDB are suggesting that the American networks are asking for a third season. If there is one I shall watch series 1 and 2 again just before it airs.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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The King's Choice

How Norway remained a sovereign nation.

(Edit) 10/06/2019

This tells the story which those born well after the second World War will probably not know of, and even those of us around at the time do not know the full details. We know that their King sheltered here and in gratitude the Norwegians give us a Christmas tree every year. As an historical comment it can not entertain with thrills and spills for dramatic effect, it has to stick to what happened. It is well made and acted though and well worth watching if you do not know the story. One point that the film makes clear was that the King made his decision based on principles and how he saw his duty to the Nowegian people.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.
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