Film Reviews by JR

Welcome to JR's film reviews page. JR has written 50 reviews and rated 95 films.

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Green Book

A sanitised, sugar-coated account of racism in 1960's America

The true story of the unlikely friendship between Tony Vallelonga and Don Shirley is so compelling that any professionally made film could not fail to interest the viewer. But this film seems to dip its toes into the cauldron of racism in sixties America, and finds it too hot. The result is entertaining enough, but feels sentimentalised and anachronistic in its treatment - a sort of 'Driving Miss Daisy' in reverse, and 'white saviour' criticisms are not unfounded. For this viewer, Vigo Mortenson's stereotypical portrayal of a tough Italian New Yorker was not convincing adding to the inauthentic feel of the film; and I would strongly recommend Spike Lee's 'Black KKlansman' as a much better, more authentic film dealing with similar themes.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Entertaining and Intelligent

Jack, Lee's drinking buddy and accomplice calls Lee ' a horrible c***'. And she is. The only living being she is capable of showing love towards is her cat. She is a misanthropic drunk with criminal tendencies, but the film makes you care deeply about her and Jack. The film is based on Lee Israel's book about how she came to be convicted of forgery; and in the hands of scriptwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, is witty, intelligent, entertaining and melancholic with first rate performances by Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant.

6 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

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Columbus

Architecture and smoking

The film is very slow with far too many long silences when nothing happens. The dialogue is often difficult to hear and most of the characters seem to be reciting passages from architecture books rather than conversing naturally.

The film maker clearly loves modernist architecture and there is a pivotal scene when Jin asks Casey for her emotional response to a building, and I was hoping at last for an interesting insight, but frustratingly, you see her mouth moving, but the voice is replaced by more of the drone-like music which pervades the film and would be more at home in a horror film, creating an inappropriatly eerie atmosphere.

The cinematography is impressive and shows the architecture to good effect.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Shoplifters

The best Kore Eda film so far

Kore Eda delights in the outsider status of the family, and the way they metaphorically hold two fingers up to society, and he depicts their life with joy and humour.

Living in a tiny, overcrowded squalid house, the adults work in low-paid insecure jobs and thieve to make ends meet, but also as a way of life. The film has the feel of a Dickens novel, filled with fruity, larger than life characters, and cliches like 'loveable rogues' and 'tart with a hart' come to mind. And, like Dickens, Kore Eda has a tendancy towards sentimentality. Even these thieves have a moral code (its okay to steal as long as you don't put the shop out of business), and they rescue an abused and neglected 6 year old girl and give her the love and kindness she has never had.

All the acting is superb, including the children, and there are so many wonderful scenes such as the family's day at the beach, a tender scene between the wife and the rescued girl, the child's small feet twined around the legs of a chair is telling and moving.

Kore Eda based the film on a real case in Japan, but as the judicial system catches up with the family, the film becomes less engaging.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Crazy Rich Asians

Nauseating

Cliche upon cliche is piled up in this unfunny rom-com. With the exception of Michelle Yeoh, who is wasted here, the acting is poor, either wooden or OTT.

The plot can be summarised as: Bland, pretty, (relatively) poor Miss Goody Two Shoes wins her bland, handsome, massively rich prince. The rest is a tasteless display of ostentatious wealth and luxury; gold, jewels, fashion, houses, cars, planes etc. etc.

I wondered who this silly fairy tale is aimed at - perhaps teenage girls? But I think most young women of today would find the theme of the film retrogressive and patronising.

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American Animals

An uneasy mix of documentary and drama

Bart Layton's documentary 'The Impostor' was gripping in its tension and mystery, but this film is nowhere near as good.

It is a mix of the talking heads of the real criminals and dramatisation. But there is a triumph of style over substance with tricksy editing and unreliable narrator elements. The 'characters' are bored middle-class male university students who are entirely unlikeable, uninteresting and amoral - one of whom seems to be a psychopath.

The title sequence showing details from Audubon's 'Birds of America' depicting the blood and terror of the kills of birds of prey is really powerful and one of the best things in the film. Too bad the rest didn't live up to this early promise.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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Beast

If you are willing to suspend disbelief...

The beauty of the Jersey landscape is the best thing about this film. The plot was not credible, the characters were inconsistant, the script was manipulative, trying to manufacture suspense. And film maker, please note - enacting a character's lurid dreams is unoriginal and does not add tension.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Wife

Mediocre and Unmemorable

I have not read the novel from which the script was adapted, so it may be the fault of the original work, but this is leaden and predictable. Even the likes of Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close fail to give it the spark of life, and the best performance is that of Christian Slater. If Glenn Close wins the Oscar, it will be in spite of this film, rather than because of it.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Wonder Wheel

Not one of Woody's best.

This is Woody coasting, well within his comfort zone. But Woody on a bad day is better than most other film makers on a good day. The cinematography is reminiscent of fuzzy, super-saturated colours of fifties movies. Most scenes are indoors and feel very stagey - it feels like a play rather than a film, and some of the dialogue is stilted and clunky although there are many allusions to the classics and Shakespeare. The casting is problematical and I was not convinced by Winslet's performance which was one dimensional playing a very shrill and moany woman, and Timberlake was rather wooden.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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Film Worker

For those interested in the minutiae of film making.

Leon Vitali gave up success as an actor to become Stanley Kubrick's right- hand man and remains an archivist of Kubrick's oeuvre. There are tantalising mentions of Kubrick's cruelty and abuse of the blindly adoring Leon, to the point that we're told Leon almost dies of overwork. A more interesting film would have been an exploration of the psychology and motivations of both Kubrick and Vitali.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Workshop

Unfocused and wordy

The film feels like it was cobbled together at a workshop brainstorming session as in the movie. It is very wordy - tries to address radicalism, racism and right wing extremism, but it all adds up to little more than teenage angst.

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The Heiresses

Very slow and unconvincing

This film has been garlanded with praise and awards, but apart from a few scenes (like the karoke one), I felt like shouting "Just get on with it!" The main actress has an expressionless face with permanently surprised eyebrows and a swollen top lip as if she had just been smacked on the mouth.

The plot is full of holes. Chela and Chiquita live in a run down but formerly grand old house in Asuncion. They have fallen on hard times and the first scene shows a wealthy-looking buyer inspecting their belongings. Chiquita is lively and engaging, but is soon sent to prison for fraud or a debt - we're not told which or why. Despite being totally skint, Chela remains in the house, waited on hand and foot - literally, by a very submissive maid. Chela is zombie-like and I thought she was suffering from dementia or on strong medication, but despite that (and not having a driver's license) she unaccountably becomes a de facto taxi driver for the rich old ladies of Asuncion. Through this, she meets a young woman who, rather unbelievably tries to get her to take up smoking and tries to seduce her. Meanwhile Chiquita seems to be having a whale of a time in the women's prison. There is a germ of a good film here, but this is not it.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Happy Prince

Portrayal of Wilde's last years

The multiple flashbacks make the structure of the film confusing. The film jumps all over the place: from Wilde's theatrical triumphs to the humiliation of incarceration, to his relationship with his children. But Everett's main interest seems to be the depiction of depravity, decline and excess. He gurns through strange facial prosthetics, as we follow Wilde in the grip of addictions to alcohol, food, drugs and sex with under age rent boys, and gay orgies. Throughout the film he intones the story of The Happy Prince, which only underlines the maudlin sentimentality of the film. 'Wilde' with Stephen Fry is a much better film.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Phantom Thread

Original and Finely crafted

The film is as finely crafted as one of Reynolds' dresses. Care and attention has been paid to every frame; the locations, the sound, the cinematography, and the music are all perfect. The acting is superb - Day Lewis' performance is detailed, nuanced and and completely absorbing to watch.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Twee

As twee as its title, this is romantic fiction but lacking in any chemistry between the leads. The dark history of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey is relegated to the background in favour of un-funny 'quirky' characters, pretty scenery and pretty dresses.

2 out of 6 members found this review helpful.
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