Film Reviews by JR

Welcome to JR's film reviews page. JR has written 65 reviews and rated 134 films.

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Summerland

Sentimental and forgettable

(Edit) Updated 04/11/2020

This is at best a wet Sunday afternoon watch with a cup of hot cocoa; at worst magic realist, anachronistic, politically correct sentimental tosh. The cinematography makes the best of the Kent/Sussex coast, but the plot does not bear scrutiny, and the characters are rather one dimensional.

2 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

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Misbehaviour

Entertaining and thought provoking

(Edit) 15/09/2020

It is not just a 'feel good ' jolly British film, it is more serious, but wears its seriousness lightly. Women's equality, sexual objectification of women, racial injustice - these are the concerns of this film. Keira Knightly is as good as I've ever seen her, Rhys Ifans has a ball playing Eric Morley. It is pretty shocking that the cringe worthy cattle market that was the Miss World contest was considered good wholesome family TV viewing. The film shows how far we have come since the middle of the 20th century but also signals that we have much further to go. I enjoyed seeing the real people portrayed in the film before the end credits.

2 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Marriage Story

Very long and yawn inducing divorce story

(Edit) 09/09/2020

The film begins promisingly. There is the voiceover of a man and then woman and they are reading a description of their married life, and all they love about their partner. Then we cut to a marriage mediation session, and find these moving essays were a task so the session could start on a positive note. But the tone is set when Nicole refuses to read hers. She is an actress who is divorcing her meteorically rising star theatre director husband for what seems to be jealousy. At one point, she says she enjoyed being the star when she was taking the lead in his plays, but when she became just another member of the theatre company, and he became the star, she decided to take their child, leave New York for LA, and walk out of the marriage to pursue her own fame and fortune. They both agree not to involve lawyers, but Nicole soon engages a rottweiler lawyer, played by Laura Dern, and passively allows her to destroy the husband's life.

The film is far too long at 137 minutes and needs ruthless editing and more humour. The script feels rather stagey, theatrical and self indulgent, and culminates in a long cathartic scene where the couple lose all control and verbally tear each other apart. There are 2 Steven Sondheim songs inappropriately crowbarred in, although Adam Driver makes a pretty good fist of it.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Very good

(Edit) 14/08/2020

This is a film about the big stuff in life: childhood, parenthood, families, love, death, emotional pain. It's also about something very old fashioned - virtue.

The film is inspired by real events where a driven magazine writer overcomes his cynicism and learns about decency, empathy and kindness from Mister Rogers, the host of a 'hokey children's televison programme'. It is at times funny and deeply moving, but any sentimentality is cut back by the clever, daring structure of the film and the really outstanding use of music (Cat Stevens and Nick Drake among others) and the jazz ensemble musical score. Scenes inside the miniature toy town on the set of Mister Rogers programme mark the 'chapters' of the narrative seamlessly.

The acting is all outstanding, and the film adds to the impressive body of work of Marielle Heller, who directed the estimable 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Parasite

Despite the awards, poor

(Edit) Updated 21/07/2020

I found the plot predictable and the so-called dark humour juvenile and simplistic. As the film goes on for its overlong running time, it descends into a kind of comic book gore fest with gallons of garish fake blood and cartoonish over-acting. There is a repugnant glorification of wealth and violence, and the characterisation is lazy and stereotypical - the poor people are monsters and the rich are gullible idiots.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Call of the Wild

A not very good CGI adaptation of London's novel

(Edit) 18/07/2020

Jack London's story deserves better than this. Harrison Ford brings a bit of acting class to the proceedings, but the rest looks like a video game, and the whole production looks cheap. The CGI animals are not very convincing and the majesty of the landscape has not been captured.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Judy

A compassionate portrait of the troubled star but lacking the most important ingredient - her voice.

(Edit) 11/04/2020

The film tells the story of Judy Garland's concerts in London six months before she died. She is a complete mess; broke, smoking, drinking, constantly taking prescription drugs, not eating. A series of flashbacks show the bullying and abuse she suffered as a young movie star. The creepy, intimidating movie tycoon Sam Meyer tells a young Judy that she is not as thin or as pretty as other young actresses, but it's her voice that will make her an enduring star. There are singers whose voices are so completely unique and distinctive that a biopic without the voice becomes a big problem. Zellweger portrays her charm, wit, fragility, but crucially for the film, unable to capture that Garland vocal magic.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Mrs. Lowry and Son

First Rate

(Edit) 25/03/2020

Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave give an acting masterclass - every expression, every gesture is an expression of Lowry's love for his mother but also his pain and pent up frustration at her dismissal of his paintings. Redgrave as the bed bound Mrs Lowry balances her social climbing and sometimes cruel domination of her sensitive son with a portrayal of an intelligent and cultured woman whose every aspiration in life has been denied her by her social class and a bad marriage. Most of the film takes place in Mrs Lowry's bedroom in their grim Victorian terrace. but there is humour and beauty in the film's depiction of the landscapes and scenes of ordinary folk that we know from Lowry's paintings. Noble's direction and the musical score are both spot on and it all adds up to a first rate film.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Home Again

No Rom and no Com

(Edit) Updated 15/02/2020

'Home Alone' is the title of a Carole King song from 1971, and, despite topical references, this film feels like a seventies TV sit com - most of it is filmed in a very stagey 'garden' and large house. The script is bland and limp - one accepts a rom com 's narrative will be flaky, but the comedy should make up for it. But it is not very funny. Reece Witherspoon goes through the motions, acting winsome; Pico Alexander as her toyboy is devoid of personality, and what a waste of Michael Sheen's considerable talents.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Downton Abbey

Undemanding fun

(Edit) Updated 15/02/2020

Maggie Smith gets the funniest lines in this upstairs downstairs comedy of manners. It is as polished as the family silver and as light as one of Mrs Patmore's souffles.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Bait

Style over substance

(Edit) Updated 06/02/2020

Longeurs abound in this retro pastiche drama. The narrative is paper thin and the rest feels like padding. The jumpy, scratched old film effect was distracting, and the sound replicates the poor sound quality of early 1950's films. The characters are stereotypical. The film maker borrows extensively from early Hitchcock films, but Hitchcock he isn't. It feels like a film school student project.

0 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Pain and Glory

Not glorious

(Edit) 24/01/2020

I found little to like in this film. It was a series of self-indulgent vignettes filled with Almodovar's trade mark vibrant colours, but the content was dull. The copious consumption of heroin and other drugs in real time became tedious and unwarranted, and the many flashbacks to Salvador's childhood were sugary sentimental fantasies. Penelope Cruz plays his mother with brio, but a woman saddled with a life of drudgery and poverty would not have looked anything like she does. Although the title 'Pain and Glory' hints at greatness; this is a slight, minor work and is for Almodovar groupies only.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Long Shot

Aimed at an undiscerning youth market

(Edit) 20/10/2019

Charlize Theron plays an incredibly beautiful, intelligent, powerful woman who unaccountably falls for a badly dressed, unkempt overweight man-child. It is not very funny - it raised a smile (not a laugh) a couple of times at most. At its core is a very cheesy old fashioned marriage oriented love story with Judeo-Christian overtones but thinly disguised in a wrapper designed to shock/appeal to under 25's with plenty of swearing, penis and masturbation 'jokes' , and the normalisation of drug use.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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All Is True

A Vanity Project too far

(Edit) 18/08/2019

We see Shakespeare in the late autumn of his life - cue shots of frosty autumn leaves and dark, candlelit Tudor interiors. There is no variety in the cinematography as all the outdoor scenes are shot from ground level upwards. The scenes of Shakespeare in his garden are laughably amateur with what must be potted plants plonked on the ground and, again, shot from below. Characters, including Shakespeare himself, recite the poetry, which only serves to underline the extremely pedestrian nature of the language and plotting of Ben Elton's screenplay. Even great thespians such as (director and producer) Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen fail to breathe life into it.

1 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Sunset

Baffling, opaque melodrama

(Edit) 11/08/2019

Forget a coherent plot here: the film is maddeningly opaque and baffling. The characters, especially the heroine, seem to be in a kind of trance throughout and do not behave as humans usually do. The dialogue is risible. There are pretensions to a 'great work of art' by alluding to the events at the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but it plays more like a bad dream, and, as everyone knows, there is nothing more boring than having to listen to somebody telling one at great length about a dream they had.

0 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
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