Film Reviews by PV

Welcome to PV's film reviews page. PV has written 675 reviews and rated 1503 films.

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The Jurassic Games

Highly enjoyable, reality TV satire - with dinosaurs

I really enjoyed this movie. It's WAY better than the (for me) tedious and derivative Hunger Games, even though the low-ish budget does not stretch to Jurassic Park levels.

It is not original and neither are any of these movies about extreme reality TV. Loads of previous films and books, from Death Race 2000 to Logan's Run to the novel Rasmus and others like Dead Famous.

But I thoroughly enjoyed it - the film has pace and is fun, not pretentious, with lots of action and dramatic scenes. There is satire on reality TV and celebrity aplenty too, which I always like.

A great fun popcorn movie.

4 stars

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Toni Erdmann

Massively overlong and unfunny German 'comedy' which the critics loved but many who watch it hate

This film is 2 and a half hours! It could easily have an hour cut from it, especially from the second half. This movie is so flabby that if it were human it'd be a 45 stone mattress man having a sponge bath in a bed he hasn't got out of for 20 years. It seems half-improvised too, with completely extraneous, irrelevant and pointless scenes aplenty.

Occasional humour BUT all in that 'practical joker' way which I, for one, find totally unfunny.

Odd how critics love films like this, especially at Cannes - maybe that sort of comedy appeals in mainland Europe. In Britain we're spoilt for choice with comedy, and it just does not translate into British English well.

1.5 stars rounded up

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Deutschland '83: Series 1

Brilliant German TV drama set in 1983 Cold War - just SUPERB. Better than ANY UK drama.

I had this series on my rental list for a year before lifting it to the top and committing to watch this 83 series and the more recent 86 one after. I am SO GLAD I did - it is BRILLIANT. Way better than ANY UK drama and anything I have seen set in the 80s (Ashes to Ashes was a pantomime).

Superb period details, the Cold War paranoia, and full of thrills and twists, slips and slides of spying, and nail-biting tension in the slithering plots, with strong characters and performances (the main character is perfectly cast; also the general's son is the actor who played Viktor in the brilliant German TV WWII series GENERATION WAR - a great actor too). Whenever an episode finished I was desperate to watch the next part. I have not felt that way about a UK TV drama for years with the possible exception of Peaky Blinders. This is up there with Breaking Bad for quality.

Just superb. Proper grown-up intelligent drama - unlike what you see on the BBC then.

Five stars.

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Paterson

The Definition of Slow, Boring, Pretentious, Pointless Film-making.

Imagine if I had written a screenplay about a bus driver who writes DREADFUL poems with a kooky ditzy girlfriend in a story where basically NOTHING HAPPENS except the man walking his dog and going to the pub for a pint every evening, oh and randomly meets some characters planted into the film to bulk it out and make it longer. Would it ever be made? No chance.

SO why was this drivel made? Baffles me. I thought the French had a monopoly on long, tedious, yawn-inducing, self-indulgent, pointless films. I stand corrected.

I suppose how much you like this film depends on how much you like this director Jim Jarmusch BUT for me, his movies (and those of Wes Andersen) are deeply self-indulgent, pretentious, pointless, self-consciously 'quirky, 'post modern', 'Noo Yoik hipster', affected, and, in a word, boring. Oh and the poetry is just TERRIBLE - as was the drivel written by William Carlos Williams, plums and all. Maybe if I were a Californian hipster I'd like this. But I am not and I don't. Two hours of my life I'm never getting back.

On the plus side, if you suffer from insomnia, just watch this and feel yourself drift happily away to the land of nod.

1 star. For the dog.

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Boy Erased

Overly long + worthy drama, a bit precious/preachy/psychobabbly, about US gay aversion therapy

This movie is probably necessary, and based on a memoir too, BUT when watching it I realised it would only strike a chord if you lived in the very religious states of the USA. We do not really have the same Christian culture in the UK and I doubt there's much gay aversion therapy here - maybe via some evangelical churches of African ones, and as for Muslims in the UK and other faiths, I think being gay is pretty much a no-no, so maybe we needs some movies about that bigotry.

I also pondered the fact that actually in most of the world (all Africa and Asia) gay people don;t get sent to therapy - they get killed or imprisoned, so maybe we need more movies about that (one African film THE WOUND is superb - I recommend that). 'Gay' is only a lifestyle in the West; in most of the world, it's a behaviour as it was in most of Western history.

It's all imbued with that self-obsessed pity-party therapy-culture that has seeped into all areas of American (and now British) life, and can be very preachy and rather precious as a propaganda movies.

I also saw the act 3 twist coming a mile off - it's been the same plot twist in so many similar movies (Scum; Another Country etc). No spoilers.

I just didn't believe the journey of the mom character here and disliked the stereotype of making the dad - ie the man - the baddie. Enough already! Plenty of women are massively homophobic esp as they tend to be more devoutly religious than men all over the world.

Russell Crowe as the devout preacher dad character drawls it in, and is more believable - and he looks like he's had all the pies too, so I wonder if the actor gained weight for the role. Maybe he needs some pie-aversion therapy eh?

Also, there are no black faces in this movie. Why? Hollywood is always parachuting in African Americans, even to play roles of people who in real life were white, so why not here eh? That is necessary because most African-Americans would, in any referendum, vote to make homosexuality illegal according to polls - 70% of those in California according to reports I have seen. The ethnic communities in the UK, too, are much more homophobic than the average white person and yet that is never ever mentioned or debated, and I have certainly never seen any films highlighting the issue. WHY NOT?

All in all, a necessary if rather worthy movie and way too long, so 2.5 stars rounded up.

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Searching for Sugar Man

Brilliant and Fascinating Documentary about an early 70s US Musician who Vanished

I loved this film. I rarely watch movie documentaries. But this and the recent British documentary FRANK are genuinely moving.

Very sad of course, that someone should not get success and then have to go back to their old life of little money and hard graft BUT that happens to MOST PEOPLE who want to make it in the music business (or film business or as an author!). Only a select few make it via sheer luck and contacts; right time right place.

This guy didn't help himself when playing songs at gigs in a veil of smoke and his back to the audience (as I would like to do to!). I disagree with the music boss here who makes claims of racism, that he failed to make it because his name sounded Hispanic (Rodriguez). It's not as though all pop and rock stars in the late 60s and early 70s were wasp white Americans, is it? Plenty of racial diversity.

No, I think the reason Rodriguez failed to make it is that his songs were very derivative and simply not good enough. Some nice ones though and I was yearning for him to finish that 3rd album now at age 70-ish. BUT most money now is in live shows, not CD/record sales as once was, so he should keep doing that. The guy is so stoical it's unreal. One wonders if he's been on the 'sugar'...lol

Weird that he made it in South Africa - but only white Afrikaans community, it seems. A fairytale come true really. Reminds me of others who get fame in certain world locations - the old 'Big in Japan' thing, where pop bands who do nothing in the UK or even US make it there. It happens, for weird and vague reasons.

Genuinely loved this film. Reminds me a bit of 2008 documentary about failed Canadian 80s rock band ANVIL - who were, yes, big in Japan but never made it anywhere else, so members do regular jobs. Or did, until reforming after the documentary and touring the world.

5 stars. Just great.

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Arctic

So-so, mostly wordless Arctic Survival Drama. Brrrrr!

This film is OK and stars Mads Mikkelsen who is a GREAT actor (watch THE HUNT). But I just think WHY?

Maybe it's an attempt to ape other survival dramas like The Revenant or Everest or others?

You can PREDICT there will be lots of ice and falling down crevasse and, as this is the Arctic, yes to polar bears and no penguins (no spoilers!)

At the end you just feel a bit MEH really.

Weird watching it in the heat of summer as I did too. I felt like getting some ice cubes out of the freezer, just for the empathy...

Not bad but a bit pointless, and not even as one would expect, a true story. Mads Mikkelsen can do MUCH better than this.

3 stars

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Crowhurst

Low-budget innovative true and tragic story, less slick than The Mercy

I enjoyed this. It was filmed BEFORE the movie THE MERCY, the slick higher budget version of the same story which was released in cinemas first because the same company owned distribution rights to both! Why film-makers do this I have no idea, Just like ANTZ and A BUG'S LIFE out at the same time. Maybe they just lack creativity and copy each other?

Anyway, this is a low budget British film which uses some avant-garde techniques to good effect.

I enjoyed THE MERCY too but that is a slicker high budget effort really - this film feels more real, somehow. It was filmed in the actual house where the Crowhurt family lived too. I liked the portrayal of bankers here - who will always lend you money so long as you have loads of it!

A tragic and maybe even scary movie about obsession and ambition.

4 stars

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Genuinely moving, Bitter-sweet Tragi-Comedy about a Lonely Desperate Author in 1990 New York

This is an excellent bitter sweet drama - a tragi-comedy - which I thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, having watched this I think Melissa McCarthy should have won the Oscar for best female in a lead role and not the massively over-rated Olivia Coleman queen performance in the massively over-rated 'on trend' women-only-focused The Favourite. It really is a stunning performance from Melissa McCarthy, and actress I had not heard of before.

I never really like Richard E Grant in anything though as he always plays - Richard E Grant. I dislike the way modern movies all seem to need the camp outrageous sidekick of the black sassy woman too (thankfully absent here).

Based on a true story but a really believable ones. Writers really do struggle - according to the Society of Authors the average salary of a professional author member if around £11,000 per year, down £1000 in a decade, and most author members of that society earn £5k a year or less. So this story is utterly believable. Many writers will relate to it and the world of agents and rejection and awful jobs being treated like dirt - and drinking of course!

Genuinely intelligent and touching as a movie, which does not happen much in Hollywood.

It would have been 5 stars but for the OTT performance of Richard E Grant and the way the film becomes more serious as it goes on and loses some warmth and humour BUT congratulations on the script for making us like someone who was not really a likable person and lived a very lonely life of great suffering. Oh and I loved the cat (no spoilers BUT I knew what was coming when I first saw it!)

This movie reminds me of, I think, a TV drama of a man who faked paintings for decades ('sexton blakes') as he called them - a BBC2 drama from years ago. You have to admire anyone who can pull it of, I suppose AND wonder how many fakes are out there, as yet undiscovered...

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Gomorrah: Series 1

Ultra-violent, Ultimately depressing Naples-set Italian Gangster TV Drama based on movie

I found this movie intensely depressing. Maybe it's the constant relentless violence and shooting (no spoilers there - it's a mafia drama, what d'you expect, a bake off?). Maybe it's the total lack of hope for something better.

I understand a lot of Italian and have visited Naples, so 'get' a lot of the cultural references. The problem is, I found I didn't really care that much about the characters, who are pretty predictable: the mafia boss, the son, the wife, the underlings, the snitches etc. Nothing different from 1930s James Cagney movies except the Italian rap soundtrack! The instrumental music played is actually highly effective.

Also, so much of the scenes happen in near-darkness and the lighting seems to waver too, not sure why - but for that reason and more, I doubt I shall watch the other series of this.

For classic gangster mafia drama, I suppose The Sopranos will always be the standard.

3 stars.

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Green Book

Mediocre, unmemorable, race-fixated pc road movie

The critics hated it when this won Best Picture Oscar 2019, and I agree that it's a mediocre movie - though deplore the race-obsessed over-rated director Spike Lee's tantrums. This movie is way better than any of his! I may try watching it again at some time to see if I revise my opinion, but I was bored watching this. Noting original or memorable here.

However, it was the same critics and campaigners who demanded more African-American voters in the Academy and more black Oscars, so this is what you get when you rig the voting.

For me, John C Reilly in STAN AND OLLIE should have won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and the actress playing Stan's Russian wife should have won best supporting actress. It now seems true, however, that those who are not 'people of colour' are disadvantaged in winning Oscars, that merit is not the true judge any more - if it were was. The Oscars will become more irrelevant as a result, however, as have many awards which seemingly exist to promote 'diversity' (i.e. ensure the award doesn't go to any nasty supposedly privileged white man!). A shame really that these days merit is not all. Race politics and pc is what it's all about - % diversity, not talent.

It is what it is. 2 stars. Too race-fixated for my tastes.

Also, this is not a copy of superb French film 'Untouchable' - totally different story. UNTOUCHABLE is a great French film which was remade in the US as THE UPSIDE. Not this. Maybe the reviewer means DRIVING MISS DAISY which this does resemble?

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Better Call Saul: Series 4

Enjoyable US TV Drama spin-off from Breaking Bad

OK so this is not as slick as Breaking Bad and can be a bit confusing - it's been a while since I saw the previous series so I was a bit foxed at times.

However, I still enjoyed it much more than most UK TV drama series.

It's still slick and well-made, with interesting plot twists and well-rounded characters. I presume another series is coming too. 4/5

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A Private War

Overlong, Perhaps Overly-Uncritical Biopic of a US Female War Journalist Marie Colvin

First, the negatives: this is way too long, with so much lingering on moments of struggling with PTSD and personal relationships - it could have been made to fit into 90 minutes, I am sure, and lays on the emotions rather thick to garner sympathy. This could be because the director has only directed documentaries before.

Second, the positives: it's better than the movie THE NEGOTIATOR which starred Rosamund Pike too, at least, and tells a tragic tale well.

One wonders how fair and unbiased this is, however - I doubt the writer or backers blame anyone but Assad for the situation in Syria; however, it's well known that Homs was full of ISIS supporters. So it's strange, as it was on news reports in the UK, to have the West siding with ISIS Islamists who are also responsible for terror attacks in Britain, France, Germany etc.

It's all aimed squarely at a US audience - why there's some Brit-blaming from the main character in Sri Lanka. For the record, the British Empire did not create ethnic/religious/caste/tribal tensions in Ceylon or India or Asia - they were there anyway! The British in fact tried to lessen them via a man-made law which applied equally to all and tried to get rid of the caste system. but it lingers on.

Also worth mentioning that there are a great many war journalists, mostly male, many of whom get killed and injured yet don't get movies made about them. I suppose they all have to balance being bold and/or reckless with safety concerns too, and maybe the risks excite these types of people, even if they get attacked. Maybe, like a lot of risk-taking mountaineers, many of them suffer depression if not taking such risks. Rather them than me anyway.

I'm sure a lot more films can be made about Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other warzones. This is a useful addition to the genre. 3 stars.

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Vice

Tricksy, Conspiracy Theory Dick Cheney biopic - with a top performance by Welsh actor Christian Bale

Well Christian Bale was nominated for a best actor Oscar for this and maybe he should have won it AND the actor SAM ROCKWELL playing George W Bush certainly should have won a supporting actor Oscar for that (the black guy from Green Book stole that one for a phoned-in role to tick diversity boxes).

But the movie itself I found really slow and boring - I suppose if you're American, esp if you're a liberal who hates Cheney and Republicans, then you'll like this more. For me it was dull, and I had to rewind in parts and check subtitles not to miss anything in the montage. Watch HOUSE OF CARDS US version first 4 series or UK series for a brilliant drama. Not this.

It's all very tricksy and post-modern, thinking it's cleverer than it is! Like fake credits half way through, or the narrator 'twist' towards the end (NO SPOILERS) which is the same as the twist I have read in 3 separate novels! It's not that clever, really. Dull, yes, and TOO DAMN LONG.

Thing is, you could make a hatchet job like this about ANY politician - Obama, for example - and PLENTY of people have alcohol problems. Remember that the USA is a democracy and the people voted for Trump and George W too. In fact, I recently watched a movie re surveillance by the US govt (cannot remember the title) and Obama was fingered to that, allowing the CIA etc to monitor ALL emails and calls. I just do not believe the 'liberal conspiracy theory' either, no matter how much so many want to.

There's a silly bit after a few minutes of the end credits so watch on.

2 stars.

Glad when it finished.

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Stan and Ollie

Funny but Flawed Film which should have won Oscars (Best Supporting Actress for sure).

Spoiler Alert

I enjoyed this movie. However, it is flawed and silly in parts. For example, the TOTALLY unnecessary Irish scenes in the third act, which are a blatant attempt to appeal to US audiences. That failed, as the movie was not shown much there, hence NO Oscar nominations at all.

John C Reilly should have won BEST ACTOR maybe, and the actress playing Stan Laurel's Russian wife CERTAINLY should have won BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (won by an African-American actress - predictably). It is perhaps their misfortune to be around in an age when 'people of colour' have an unfair advantage for nominations and so often leapfrog over better actors to get their (often undeserved) wins. Sad.

I heard a much better radio play from 2004 called STAN by Neil Brand - it's available on YouTube - set after Ollie had had a stroke and was on his death bed in the USA. That's sublime drama.

This is yet another PBC movie - 'pre-branded content'. Film Studios love making movies about events and people we KNOW - such as the life of Queen, Elton John, 'based on a true story' stuff, like The Queen, Margaret et al. This is because people are more likely to go and see such films rather than 'cold' movies which are completely original. It also seems true that in these politically divided times, we are seeing loads of song and dance films - as in the 1930s, Busby Berkely movies at a time of depression and chaos.

This also annoyed me as, to comply with the BAME-casting so-called 'colourblind' obsessed these days, there were several black and Asian actors cast - as theatre manager in Glasgow, hotel receptionist in Newcastle and at the Savoy. This is 1953! Let's say that again. 1953! Even London was not very ethnically diverse then - Newcastle certainly wasn't. I have photos taken in London from my father from the early 50s. One black face - a nurse. That's it. To cast BAME actors in such roles is NOT OK - even worse in silly films like MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS which casts black actors late 16th Dukes which is ABSURD!). It is rewriting history - very Stalinist actually. And NOT true or real. It's fraud, basically - and cringe-worthy. And what is worse is audiences will actually BELIEVE 16th C Dukes were black and 1953 Britain was very ethnic too. It wasn't. This is pure pc propaganda and ruins many movies now.

The acting is great - though it is hard to see Steve Coogan in anything and not think of Alan Partridge of 'AHA!'. John C Reilly should have been nominated for an Oscar as should the 2 women playing the wives. The fact they were not is a disgrace BUT this movie got limited release in the USA. ALL filmed in England though.

It's worth remembering that ONE reason this is an enjoyable watch is because of the genius of Laurel and Hardy (and in fact it was the Brit Stan Laurel who wrote it all and was the genius; Ollie just acted - perfectly - but he was not a creator). Not knighted and had financial issues as they got older which is sad and just shows how cut-throat and exploitative the movie industry has always been. The routines are fab - The Blue-ridged Mountains of Virginia especially which has always been my favourite Laurel and Hardy sketch BUT WHY NOT watch the ORIGINAL movies, all 150 of them, rather than recreations here?

Nice to see Swansea on the map - I know the Palace Theatre there where Laurel and Hardy performed is now derelict. Chaplin performed there too any Anthony Hopkins. Sad.

Nice to see Richard Cant (son of Brian) in the cast too.

SO I give this 3 stars out of 5. It would have been 4 if not for the silly pc casting and the mistake of pandering to US audiences with the Irish section.

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