Film Reviews by Mr Aquarium

Welcome to Mr Aquarium's film reviews page. Mr Aquarium has written 40 reviews and rated 112 films.

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And Then There Were None

Another excellent Agatha Christie adaptation by Sara Phelps

(Edit) 08/02/2022

Sara Phelps knows how to update Agatha Christie, making her less shallow and [arguably] less bigoted, whilst also keeping the suspense and drama. The rest of this production - cast, direction, photography, artwork - is also superb. Recommend Sara Phelps' adaptation of "Witness for the Prosecution".

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Battle of the Sexes

Entertaining yet also thoughtful

(Edit) 25/01/2022

I think that JR's review is very sound. This film is entertaining and yet also thoughtful. MInd you, I didn't mind that BJKing was very much the hero of the film; sometimes people deserve respect!

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The Witness for the Prosecution

Best Agatha Christie TV adaptation yet

(Edit) 16/01/2022

An unexpected gem. This retains Agatha Christie's trademark twists, turns and surprises. However, it deepens the characters, and embeds them convincingly in their post WW1 culture. A drawback to so much of Christie's writing has been her shallowness and casual xenophobia; here there's depth, and xenophobia is built upon and made use of. These comments may make this adaptation seem a little heavy-handed, but, far from it, it moves along crisply, with a brilliant cast. Toby Jones, of "The Detectorists" fame, is especially powerful and moving as the war-damaged and beguiled solicitor hoping to save his client from the gallows. The adaptor, Sara Phelps, improves on Christie.

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Exceptional historical French film centring on female experiences of love

(Edit) 03/11/2021

A measured film which we enjoyed; I'd add more, but the comments - in the positive reviews below - have already nailed the fim's effect.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Sweet Hereafter

Sensitive, intelligent but sombre drama

(Edit) 29/09/2021

A lawyer visits a small, icy, Canadian town. There's been a school bus accident; children have died. He wants - though with perhaps misgivings - to create a lawsuit from this incident, having been first approached by one set of parents. He approaches other bereaved parents, and the surviving bus driver and teenage school pupil, who all have different reactions and stories to tell.

The film moves back and forth between the times before and after the accident. [You have to be alert to these shifts.] The lawyer has, himself, an ongoing tragedy to cope with; his young adult daughter is an angry drug addict. He seems to be losing her, just more slowly than the bereaved parent lost their children.

Should there been a court case to pursue damages? If so, who is to blame? Is no one, just terrible circumstance, to blame? Is it better to accept bereavement stoically or to seek an outlet? I've avoided plot details, and avoided commenting on the ending. There's a great deal more to this film, and the acting is superb. However, it's a thoughtful film; don't expect overplayed Hollywood dramatics. This film will stay with you, but you have to be in the mood for it....

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Hamlet

The best cinematic "Hamlet"

(Edit) 29/09/2021

I taught Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays for 30 years. This is the best "Hamlet" on film. I remember having misgivings, before seeing it, about Kenneth Branagh and the 19th century setting. However, it all works brilliantly. Just be aware that this uses the complete, unabridged text! I won't spoil your enjoyment by giving away the ending....

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Solaris

Compelling psychological sci-fi classic

(Edit) 29/09/2021

Not for Star Wars fans; this is claustrophobic, at times positively unsettling, [one "resurrection" scene will stay with you for some time...] yet uses the sci-fi setting to focus on the main character's relationships. Possibly the most quietly intelligent sci-fi film ever made? Better than the later US remake. Curiously, for this Brit at least, the Russian ambiance adds to the otherworldliness of the film.

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Runaway Train

A rarity - an intelligent thriller!

(Edit) 29/09/2021

Compelling, dramatic, tension-laden, a powerful turn from Jon Voight; you might expect a throwaway thriller plot and not much else, but this commands your attention.

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Romantics Anonymous

French romance about shyness - endearing or irritating?

(Edit) 20/09/2021

I've seen so many French films now that are "quirky"... Some, like "Amelie" or "Lost in Paris", work brilliantly. This one, I felt, was too irritating at times to be successful. The restaurant scene pushed it over the edge. Sorry to be so grouchy about it. However, the leads are very watchable, the setting alluring [was it Lyons?], the chocolate visuals superb, and the main twist to the plot was appealing. I suspect that you'll either find it irritating or endearing. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars out of 5 if I could. Probably helps if you watch it in a slightly wine-drenched mood...

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My Favorite Year

Overlooked comic delight

(Edit) Updated 21/09/2021

Set in the early 1950s days of US television, a young would-be comic writer has to chaperone an Erroll-Flynn type aging movie star into a live variety show performance. Peter O'Toole as the aging star - now often soused and terrified of live performance - does this brilliantly. The time and place is beguilingly recreated and the action is inventive, refusing to rely on simply playing the drunk card for laughs. Undervalued comic gem.

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Priceless

Romantic French drama of golddigging amongst the Riviera set

(Edit) 11/09/2021

A golddigger mistakes a lowly waiter for a rich "mark". In turn, a rich woman mistakes...but I won't say anymore about the plot's twists and turns. This film works wonderfully if you accept it on its own terms - the world of golddiggers versus the rich, who expect to get what they pay for. The glamorous Biarritz and Monaco locations are sumptuously photographed; the two leads are engaging and the ending is warm-hearted. A very French film.

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The Devil and Daniel Webster

1941 US Dr Faustus-type B&W period fantasy

(Edit) Updated 10/08/2021

Set in the 1840s, a New England farmer and husband, on the edge of bankruptcy, is successfully tempted by the devil to sell his soul for 7 years of riches. Strangely, a [real-life] orator and politician [Daniel Webster] becomes involved. This is a pleasing restoration, with good-quality visual detail for the time. The music and supernatural special effects won awards at the time. This version restores the episode where the devil points out the longevity of his American credentials; he was there on the first North American-bound slave ships. Daring for the time, and not included for showing in the Southern states! Conventional plot in some ways, and yet - because of the period setting - curiously fascinating in other ways. [For example, the farmer's impregnation of his wife is delicately yet clearly signalled - avoiding censorship by using rural metaphors and a romantically gauzy close-up... Also, if you follow the references to the "Grange" - a farmers' union - you'll see it's set in quiet but noble opposition to the devil's use of greed and rampant individualism. That makes it part of FDR's New Deal ideology, and anti-Reagan before its time.]

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Drole de Drame

Madcap 1930's French B&W farce

(Edit) Updated 09/08/2021

There's a Mary-Whitehouse-type English Bishop who is secretly a philanderer; a prim, Hyacinth-Bouquet-type housewife who's tempted by a love-struck man who unbeknownst to the both of them is the sworn enemy and intended-murderer of her husband; a respected botanist who secretly moonlights as a detective novelist but whose creative ideas come from the below-stairs staff; a house full of free milk bottles; people hiding in attics, cupboards, London's Edwardian Chinatown, and their own home in disguise as someone else; respectable citizens coshed and robbed for their floriferous buttonholes; a pompous, supremely confident Scotland Yard Detective who is an idiot bumbler; and so on. Like the best farces, it all makes sense at the time, one misapprehension or secret leading to another - its spirit is Fawlty Towers, albeit made by the French and transposed to their vision of a starchy but double-dealing Edwardian London. You have to keep your wits about you, but if you're in the mood and can cope with subtitles, it's a ridiculous pleasure.

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Maigret: Series 1: Part 1

Truthful to the novels - absorbing but slow

(Edit) Updated 09/08/2021

These two episodes channel the Maigret novels more successfully than any of the other adaptions I've seen over the years. However, that makes them rather slow and "literary" rather than televisual or dramatic. [The recent Rowan Atkinson adaptations, which I quite liked, are very fast-moving in comparison.] Bruno Cremer [very convincing as Maigret] is often seen puzzling quietly, chewing on his pipe.

If you're used to the Agatha Christie school of clever plotting and the reveal-all at the end, Simenon's Maigret can come as a bit of a shock. In one of these episodes, for example, we never quite know exactly how the victim[s] died! Maigret is more about him solving the puzzle of character; there are plot points, but they're often subordinate to an interest in the people. This makes the episodes less shallow than many Agatha Christie adaptations, but much less showy. Horses for courses, etc. [I'd except the 2016 Sarah Phelps adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Witness for the Prosecution" from this charge, an adaptation which opened out the original brilliantly and tackled Christie's usual shallow characterisation head-on, turning it into a very satisfying production.]

Therefore - interesting and absorbing, but don't expect Hercule Poirot-like antics.

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Their Finest

Better film than you might expect

(Edit) 12/07/2021

Underestimated but plucky Welsh lass triumphs as a screenwriter in the midst of personal setbacks, not to mention the 1940 Blitz. Put like this, you would expect a cliche of a film. However, I've seen it twice, and it holds up as much better than that precis would lead you to expect. It rises above its predictable elements, given a sharp screenplay, clever photography and superb acting turns. Champ's review below is spot-on.

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