Film Reviews by TE

Welcome to TE's film reviews page. TE has written 182 reviews and rated 188 films.

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Vengeance Is Mine

Stunningly good!

(Edit) 23/02/2020

Great film! Imamura's direction feels sure-footed throughout the sequences of flashbacks and transitions.

It is Ken Ogata's dynamic performance that draws us into the narrative, and once there we meet a wonderful range of memorable characters.

In true psychopathic fashion the visceral sex scenes run parallel to the magnetic energy of the murder scenes.

The exception to this is the tender illicit passion between the murderer's father and his daughter-in-law.

The dark underbelly of city life is brilliantly exposed, and the final imagery of the cremated bones that refuse to fall from sight is a true master stroke.

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Cure

Stylish but limited

(Edit) 21/02/2020

What makes ordinary "good citizens" commit murder?

The answer here is provided by a mysterious drifter who claims to have amnesia and to be empty inside. His subtle hypnotic techniques are linked to his studies of Franz Mesmer.

A potentially interesting exploration of this link is promised, but it all ends in predictable fashion with no insights offered into the Mesmer connection.

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Horse Money

The poetry of loss

(Edit) 19/02/2020

A welcome return for the enigmatic charisma of the elderly man named Ventura.

As in Costa's earlier films we become immersed in the displaced Portuguese world of migrants from Cape Verde. Brace yourself for a portrait of profound loss and sadness.

Engaging with Costa's films on this theme can be hard going. There is more humour in 'Colossal Youth' than is evident here, but the sheer poetry of the filmic language (and the verbal language) transforms the relentless pain into cinematic gold.

Nearly all the scenes take place in a pool of light surrounded by an all-encompassing darkness. Costa seems to be saying that this is how life is.

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The Tiger

Flawed but very watchable

(Edit) 19/02/2020

Full of awesome views of the snowbound forests and mountains of South Korea, the cinematography being the best thing about this sprawling epic of Man against Nature.

A good editing job would have helped in making the narrative flow more smoothly. There are a few too many scenes of a CGI tiger wreaking unrealistic havoc on vast numbers of Japanese soldiers and hunters. There is patriotic pride in the come uppance served on the invading Japanese army.

Ultimately it is as if the director could not decide between a story of human endeavour and a mythological thriller. The mixture of the two genres doesn't work quite well enough.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Good build up spoilt by lame ending

(Edit) 15/02/2020

Three stars feels a tad generous, but 2.5 isn't an option.

It's the best Tarantino film for a long time and it has some very good set pieces (DiCaprio's trailer meltdown after forgetting his lines, the dialogue with the 8 year old girl outside the saloon, and Pitt's visit to the Strahn Ranch).

There is something intrinsically interesting about a movie buff like Tarantino making a film about the Manson "Family" murders, but the whole thing veers off the rails in the final 20 minutes, ending in a bathetic car crash of a final showdown.

It seems perverse to use historical fact for much of the narrative, then to go off into cartoon violence and cloying fantasy for a concluding chapter.

Clearly there will never be another Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown or even a Reservoir Dogs.

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Colossal Youth

Humane classic

(Edit) 15/02/2020

Even amongst the best exponents of 'slow cinema' Pedro Costa stands out as an exceptionally gifted film maker.

He concentrates on the deprived community of Cape Verde families in Portugal, in this case the hypnotically engaging figure of Ventura, a gaunt, gangling older man.

The dialogue is mainly written by the untrained participants. There are long silences and there are passages of beautiful poetry. The tone is serious and even sombre, but there are moments of wry humour.

The loose narrative is thoroughly absorbing, mainly because the lighting and the camera angles are so cleverly designed. There is a sense of a very careful technician at work behind the apparent documentary surface.

Can't wait to see his other films.

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Rojo

Thrillingly dark movie!

(Edit) 09/02/2020

A quietly brilliant film about the use of "disappearance" by the Argentinian military and rightwing militias.

Director Benjamin Naishtat manages to convey the horrors of this period with hardly a gunshot and hardly a glimpse of a military uniform. People disappear, the sun disappears and there is a tangible sense of sinister encroachment on normal life.

The links with events in Chile at the same time are made via the presence of a reptilian private detective from Santiago.

Most of all the film peels back the layers of 'acceptable' society to reveal the collusion and the corruption that will haunt the protagonists forever afterwards.

There is nothing spare or unattached to meaning in this film, every image is weighted with dark significance.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Never Look Away

Love, Death, Art and War

(Edit) 09/02/2020

A well-constructed, quietly decisive examination of collaboration and collusive war crimes in Nazi Germany.

Von Donnersmarck concentrates mainly on the post-War consequences for German society, and for the world of visual art. The narrative is loosely based on the early life of Gerhard Richter, who has gone on to become one of the world's most feted artists.

The various strands of the film are beautifully brought together in the final section, where 'Kurt' achieves a breakthrough in his artistic technique, developing the blurred memory effects of Richter's magnificent paintings from that period.

This might have been a five star review, but the portrayal of the central relationship between Kurt and Ellie is somehow not as energised as the other parts of the film.

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Pain and Glory

Almost too personal

(Edit) 05/02/2020

A good film, but not up with Almodovar's best, possibly because it seems to be overtly autobiographical and thus misses out on the universal relevance that his best work has.

As ever, there is deep satisfaction in the composition of every frame, with beautifully balanced colours and lighting.

Perhaps a better title would have been "Addiction" (the title of a monologue within the film). The story is full of addictions: to heroin, to memories, to desire and to pain.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Animals

Cold, brash and shallow

(Edit) 05/02/2020

Unfortunately there is little to like about the two lead characters, with their empty hedonism and their self-obsession.

For a formulaic story like this to succeed there needs to be some engaging qualities for the viewer to latch onto, but here there are only cynical one-liners and hard-faced nihilism.

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Bait

Is the scratchy overlay necessary?

(Edit) 31/01/2020

Good reviews on here by PD and jb, so I won't go into the narrative or characterisation.

I think it's worth asking a question about the contrived b/w, with the deliberately 'distressed' flickering and scratching. Does it add to the film's impact, or is it something of a gimmick?

I incline towards the latter.

It's a good enough story and theme without the need for such a retro presentation. A b/w film without the effects would have been even more interesting.

One of the technical strengths is the use of close-up, both of faces and of the details of work on fishing gear.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Wise Blood

One of the best US films of a golden decade!

(Edit) 31/01/2020

Watching this again after a long gap made me realise what a masterpiece it is.

The Southern Gothic tone, and the sheer weirdness of the central character's anti-religious religiosity, make for a fascinating presentation of Flannery O'Connor's cult fiction. Brad Dourif is one of the few actors who could have pulled off this level of intensity and manic strangeness. It's a shame that he has had so few lead roles in his career.

There is something very contemporary about the way in which the population of the town is drawn towards hucksters like the men played by Harry Dean Stanton and Ned Beatty (both brilliant). It's how Trump started and how he still proceeds.

Unfortunately for his physical and mental health, Hazel Moats is the real deal, not a huckster.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Year of the Rabbit

Not up to expectations

(Edit) 28/01/2020

I really like Matt Berry's work, especially 'Toast of London'.

Compared to that series 'Year of the Rabbit' has a big budget and plenty of stars and lavish sets. But it ain't nearly as funny.

There are some good moments but I found it quite a disappointment. The cod cockney accents and the pseudo-Victorian underworld language become laboured after a while.

It's not silly enough to be a knockabout farce type comedy, and it's not rich enough in invention to stretch beyond a couple of episodes, it just gets a bit tiresome.

Matt Berry thrives in a more anarchic and free role. This has the feel of a comic sketch drawn out way too far.

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Non-Fiction

Sharply written satire

(Edit) 21/01/2020

The review by PD gives a very good account of what this film contains, so I won't go over the same ground.

However, PD misses the satire. Assayas has crafted a merciless satire on the 'demi monde' portrayed in the film, and it is very funny.

The dialogue is witty and there are many genuine insights into cultural trends along the way.

The humour is wonderfully emphasised by the use of Jonathan Richman's 'Martians' song as the final credits roll.

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The Naked Kiss

Up there with Fuller's best!

(Edit) 16/01/2020

An extraordinary film: a taut mix of pulpy sex and hard-boiled noir.

The storyline encompasses child abuse, a common subject in films today but not in the 1960s. Indeed, society's treatment of children is a theme throughout.

Fuller creates a strong female lead character who is tough, independent and resourceful. The film ends with her receiving the support of all the other female characters as she walks off into the sunset, a trope that is usually reserved for the male hero.

Best of all is the beautiful b/w cinematography. Every frame is carefully composed and balanced like a good still photograph.

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