Film Reviews by DB

Welcome to DB's film reviews page. DB has written 8 reviews and rated 58 films.

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Hustlers

Engaging critique of American capitalism

(Edit) 08/02/2021

As the film played, I came to see that the Hustlers weren't the women, but the men whose needs they profited from meeting. Or rather, that it's about the power imbalance between them, and therefore what's behind the sex is a new take on the old exposure of capitalism for what it really is. In the third act of the film, I began to feel it started pulling its punches. But it was just setting me up for the uppercut in the final scene.

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Atonement

Beautifully written and photographed, but misses the point of the novel completely!

(Edit) 18/05/2020

This film of Ian McEwan's "Atonement" looks sublime, drawing on a Merchant-Ivory atmosphere of English summer perfection and social formality. The oppressive heat of the opening act only augments the mood. It's a striking feat to fit so much of the novel's essence into a two-hour film, and it's therefore all the more dismaying that the film robs the story of its deliciously ambiguous ending, and therefore of its essential thesis.

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The 12 Tasks of Asterix

Slightly surreal 70s style meets childhood favourite

(Edit) 28/04/2020

Before I go on - the synopsis above needs proof reading! It's 50 BC, not "so b.c."!

The recent death of Uderzo, not long after the revival of Asterix's adventures by new writers, prompted me to look at the feature films. I have loved Asterix since I first encountered him as a child, and have been wary of the films in case their characters didn't match those in my imagination.

There is an element of that in this film. The voices don't quite fit with the characters I know, and it's unhelpful that the English lines are often rushed to fit with the original animation. The basic story is fun and quite clever, but the style is very much of its time (the film was made in 1976) and looks rather dated now. Overall it's a good effort, and a reasonable diversion, but not a patch on sitting down with one of the books.

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Grantchester: Series 2

Engaging but anachronistic

(Edit) 05/09/2019

Grantchester is a well-written serial with engaging characters and relationships animated by high-quality acting. Viewers with an eye for detail and historical accuracy may find it frustrating, though: for example, suicide victims could not be buried in consecrated ground in 1954, and Leonard would not have been able to be at all open about his sexuality in society at large, let alone in the church.

None of these things need spoil the enjoyment of the drama overall, and a mild suspension of disbelief reveals sensitive treatment of complex questions which, I sense, were simply not talked about at the time. All of this is played out against the gentle background of the Cambridgeshire countryside and the cobbles and colleges of the University, so it always looks pretty, whatever the plot.

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Last Chance Harvey

Old hat, nice cloak

(Edit) 30/04/2019

Whilst everyone is trying their best, this romantic comedy must have been outdated even when it was released. It leans so heavily on outmoded tropes of expensive weddings and hetero- and mono-normative relationships that its cultural assumptions alone left me frustrated. Let alone the apparent re-location of Heathrow Airport to somewhere just off the King's Road! The only time anyone seems to have considered doing something more sensible that getting a taxi between Heathrow and London was some rather conspicuous advertising by the (then new) "Heathrow Express" rail service - an almost equally ill-informed way to travel.

In the end I'm sorry this wasn't better. Maybe this formula has missed its last chance.

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Twin Peaks: Series 2

"Modern classic" has not aged well

(Edit) 28/08/2018

I enjoy watching films and television programmes that are celebrated, but that I didn't see when they were first shown. To that end, I put "Twin Peaks" on my list, remembering the stir it created when first shown on British television - although at the time I was too young to watch it.

Disappointingly, it turned into a bit of a chore. By mid-way through the serial, the plot had departed so far from its starting point that it was no longer about who committed the original crime. The characters were not deeply enough developed to keep my interest, either, mostly being two-dimensional charicatures given little development, and sometimes changing completely over the course of the serial (which, I'll concede, is part of the plot!). David Lynch's work is admirable, and often sublimely creepy and chilling, but in Twin Peaks, those moments were often simply ridiculous, and I couldn't decide whether it was meant to be as funny as it was!

My final reflection is that it may have been ground-breaking at the time, but so much of that ground has now become well-trodden and familiar, that the impact of the original is lost.

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Twin Peaks: Series 1

DO watch the pilot!

(Edit) 31/01/2018

I didn't see this when it was first shown, and was curious to catch up on a modern classic. I can't rate it yet, because I have only watched the first episode, but I thought I should write a note to advise other viewers that the first disc consists of the "pilot" episode, and episode 1. However, the key background to the story seems to be in the pilot: I didn't watch it (because it seemed right to start with the first episode) and now feel I may have missed some of the set-up and exposition.

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Raining Stones

Fine acting and direction with political punch

(Edit) 19/10/2017

In "Raining Stones", Loach picks up some of his familiar themes - in particular, the ways that small pieces of poor fortune can spiral into serious, sometimes life-threatening, situations for those who are already vulnerable. Bob (Bruce Jones) and Tommy (Ricky Tomlinson) are friends, neighbours, and collaborators in various schemes to raise a bit of money, but things seldom work out as they hope. Bob's daughter is about to make her first communion, and he wants the very best for her, which means an expensive new outfit for the big day. His pride is one of his great strengths - but it is also the root of his problems.

The dialogue is also classic Loach, apparently ad-lib and conversational rather than slick and scripted, which adds to the humanity of the characters and the realism of the film. Perhaps less typical of Loach is his portrayal of the church's role in the community in this film, in the person of Fr Barry (Tom Hickey), who is known by his people, and who knows them - the good and the bad - and loves them.

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