Film Reviews by TE

Welcome to TE's film reviews page. TE has written 301 reviews and rated 311 films.

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Let Him Go

Dances with Yokels

(Edit) 04/06/2021

'Let Him Go' promises plenty but in the end it proves to be something of an unresolved mix between gritty family drama and gung-ho violence.

The build-up is slow and carefully paced, sustained by a solid performance from Diane Lane. If her performance is 'solid', Kevin Costner is more 'stolid'. Looking heavy in face and body, Costner never seems to get out of second gear from start to finish.

The film sets out to be a realistic portrayal of a family crisis and the emotional abuse of a child, but in the final third all parties suddenly start taking ludicrously unrealistic decisions.

It ends up looking like a rejected episode of the 'Fargo' series: civilised people versus the backwoods crazies (who are led by Lesley Manville in a curious departure from her usual roles). The 'Fargo' effect is completed by the presence of Jeffrey Donovan among the villains, delivering his trademark loony grin psycho performance.

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Comes a Horseman

Mediocre western lifted by the settings

(Edit) 01/06/2021

For fans of the Western film genre there's enough to enjoy here to merit a 3-star rating: a very good cast (Richard Farnsworth effortlessly eclipsing Fonda, Caan and Robards); a classic little folks versus the cattle baron storyline; and, best of all, some stunning landscapes.

However, Pakula just doesn't seem able to get the whole thing off the ground. The narrative has no pace, and the key character of the cattle baron isn't developed sufficiently to make his actions credible.

The editing is patchy and it has the feel of a would-be epic movie spoilt by leaving too much on the cutting-room floor.

One oddity is the orange Afro sported by James Caan (the one on his chest as well as the one on his head).

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About Endlessness

Perhaps the last work of a contemporary master

(Edit) 01/06/2021

This is probably not the best Roy Andersson film to begin with if you are new to his work (watch 'Scenes From the Second Floor', 'You the Living' and 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch...' before this one) but it does summarise the key themes of his earlier films.

Once again the Samuel Beckett comparisons are well justified. The boundaries between tragedy and comedy are constantly teased and tested. Andersson is particularly good at bringing out profoundly humane qualities in both day-to-day scenarios and scenes of transcendant power.

To fully appreciate 'About Endlessness' it helps to take in the recent documentary 'Being a Human Person', where Andersson talks about his latest work with quiet passion and dry humour.

It is sad to learn that 'About Endlessness' is Andersson's final film. Each of his movies takes a very long time to make, with even the apparent outdoor scenes elaborately staged in his studio / home.

Fittingly, his films are now receiving overdue worldwide acclaim.

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In Bloom

A woman director's skills in full bloom

(Edit) 27/05/2021

Here comes a polar opposite review to the other one on here (by "Alphaville").

'In Bloom' is a powerfully engaging coming of age drama by the very talented Nana Ekvtimishvili, whose more recent film, 'A Happy Family', has to be one of the outstanding world films so far this century.

Ekvtimishvili examines the changing roles of women in the male-dominated, ultra-conventional culture of Georgia. Here her young female lead actors give brilliant performances. Most of the cast are not professional actors and the whole film has a convincingly naturalistic feel.

There are subtle references to the politics of the region in the immediate aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it is the vibrant personal stories that resonate the most.

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County Lines

Hard shell, soft centre

(Edit) 27/05/2021

Sadly there's not enough originality in this stark tale to set it apart from all the other gritty insights into the underworld of drugs, violence and child exploitation.

As time goes by, the makers of such movies feel the need to focus on some previously neglected horror. Here it is the use of the drug mule's rectum to carry illegal substances, hence the particularly nasty wounds inflicted on him.

Hopefully it is a film that might serve as a warning to some young viewers. It certainly portrays essential truths about life in parts of inner-city Britain, but this aspect is rather let down by a soft-centred ending that runs counter to everything that has preceded it.

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Being a Human Person

A fine testament to a modern genius

(Edit) 24/05/2021

Roy Andersson is a uniquely brilliant film maker, a master at creating superb blends of comedy and tragedy. Sadly Andersson has announced that his 2020 film 'About Endlessness' is to be his last.

This is hardly surprising as he is now 78 years old and his films take a very long time to make. At least we now have this documentary, 'Being a Human Person', to mark Andersson's achievements and to provide insights into his art.

The documentary itself is revealing and engaging. The blu-ray disc also contains some special features which are essential viewing to complement the main film. Mike Leigh's contribution is especially enlightening.

Best of all, this disc drives the viewer back to the films themselves. They certainly repay multiple viewings.

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Urban Cowboy

Forgettable fun!

(Edit) 22/05/2021

Something of a 1980 time capsule, with Travolta badly mis-cast as a Texan trailer trash mechanical bull rider. Fortunately, the film is carried by an excellent pantomime villain performance by Scott Glenn, and by a lithe, sexy turn from Debra Winger.

It's a film with its own rude energy, full of denim, Stetson hats and a lot of great dancing (though not by Travolta). A high point is the Dolly Parton look-alike contest, closely followed by the well chosen cheesey country soundtrack.

Compared to Robert Altman's superb 'Nashville', this film is really trivial and one-dimensional, but it gets by as an enjoyable piece of hokum.

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Liverpool

A Quiet Masterpiece

(Edit) 19/05/2021

The director of 'Liverpool', Lisandro Alonso, is best known for the excellent 'Jauja', so it is a pleasure to be able to see one of his earlier works.

'Liverpool' is part of Alonso's "Lonely Man" trilogy and is set in the southernmost area of Latin America, the remote township of Ushuaia in Argentina. The central character is Farrel, a sailor who goes on a short journey back to his home village, which he had left under a cloud some twenty years ealier.

No professional actors are used, and Farrel is played by a resident of Ushuaia, a snow plough driver called Juan Fernandez.

The backstory remains mysterious, although there are some telling hints embedded in the imagery on screen. In fact, it is all about the detail in the images before us as there is hardly any dialogue at all.

Alonso succeeds in immersing us in this remote, quiet world. Just as the viewer begins to wonder why the film is called "Liverpool", all is revealed in a final moment of poignant symbolism.

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La Leon

Satisfyingly slow and carefully paced film

(Edit) 10/05/2021

One of the pleasures of 'World' cinema is the insight it often affords into little known areas of the planet. Here the narrative is set in the watery estuary lands of the thinly populated north of Argentina.

It's a hard-scrabble life and the central character, Alvaro, is isolated by his sexuality and by his love of books. From the outset his persona is threatened by the macho, racist El Turu.

We see a series of vignettes of life on the small island, all shot in a slightly misty grey-and-white. Many of the lingering shots are very beautiful, but there is an air of mounting menace that the director, Santiago Otheguy, maintains very well.

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Charulata

The Eyes Have It!

(Edit) 03/05/2021

This is a master-class in film direction, full of superb detail but with nothing spare or unconnected to the artful narrative.

Shot in a beautiful, creamy black-and-white, this is a film that comes close to cinematic perfection. The lighting, the acting, the subtleties of the story itself, all combine to produce a wonderfully satisfying work of art.

Not content with simply reproducing the Tagore story, Ray introduces several brilliant flourishes: the opening sequence using the opera-glasses, the scene on the swing in the garden, and the final freeze-frame are just the most obvious examples.

The personal emotions are set within a historical context, but it is the love story that cooks within the crucible of the beautifully styled house that matters most.

And above all else is the non-verbal acting of Madhabi Mukherjee, whose eyes express more in a single shot than most actors can manage in a lifetime (forgive the hyperbole...just watch 'Charulata' and you'll see what I mean!).

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The Love Witch

Using sleaze to good advantage

(Edit) 03/05/2021

This is such a good parody-movie that I felt the need to double-check the year in which it was made.

Anna Biller, the director, seems to have done pretty much everything in the background production yet she has still found time to introduce a nicely sharp feminist angle into the absurd proceedings.

Everything is pitch perfect: the garish colours; the lingering close-ups of Samantha Robinson's heavily made-up eyes; the mannered, ponderous acting; the cheapness of the props; the Dulux blood; the camp nudity. It all looks like the cover of a trashy 1960 pulp paperback novel.

I'm not sure that Biller has managed to balance the 'message' behind the film with the sheer fun elements, but it makes me want to see more of her work.

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Mädchen in Uniform

Deserves ten stars!

(Edit) 29/04/2021

This disc is a real triumph by the BFI.

'Madchen in Uniform' is one of the key cultural moments in the short period of liberation and creativity that spanned the Weimar Republic years in Germany. The film is both a bold venture into the nuances of Lesbian love, and a robust statement against the evils of authoritarianism.

The entire cast is female and the lively solidarity of the boarding-school girls gives the film an inspiring energy.

The architecture of the school itself is also one of the star turns, especially the soaring angles of the central staircase.

The black-and-white print is high quality, given that the film was made in 1931, and the play of light and shadow enhances the narrative throughout.

The disc contains some excellent extras, all of which reveal fascinating aspects of the film, its genesis and its reception. The BFI have also added four short films that make for hilarious and sobering viewing in terms of attitudes towards women in the mid-20th century.

However, the real star of this brilliant disc is the wonderful main feature itself.

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Metro Manila

A thriller in Manila

(Edit) 28/04/2021

A well-made, absorbing story built around the desperation of life in the underbelly of society in the Philippines.

The film gives harrowing insights into the decisions that have to be made in a classic urban jungle. There are twists and turns, and the viewer soon becomes committed to rooting for Oscar and his family.

Both the acting and the cinematography are excellent. The only question mark is over the sheer speed at which the whole thing happens. The plot would make an ideal mini-series rather than a standard length one-off movie.

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The Family Friend

Beauty and the Beast

(Edit) 22/04/2021

Not Paolo Sorrentino's best film (that would be either 'The Great Beauty' or 'Consequences of Love') but an intriguing story full of the Italian director's trademark visual flair. The narrative has echoes of fairy tales, like Beauty and the Beast, and of the Elizabethan plays of writers like Ben Jonson.

The "Beast" here is superbly acted by Giacomo Rizzo, who relishes a script full of pithy one-liners.

The sheer stylishness of Sorrentino's films sometimes threatens to overwhelm the content, but here he maintains a good balance between playful imagery and moral seriousness. There is also plenty of well chosen music and infectious dancing, things which feature strongly in his true masterpiece, 'The Great Beauty'.

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This Must Be the Place

A watchable misfire

(Edit) 22/04/2021

Worth watching if you can get past the off-putting central character played by Sean Penn. 'Cheyenne' is a late-middle aged pop star, modelled on Marilyn Manson. He is a parody of a faded, blank-faced, whiny-voiced, reclusive celebrity.

The first half of the film is set in Ireland, whilst the second half is set in America (mainly Utah). The American half is much better than the messy, sketchy first half. This is perhaps because Cheyenne goes on a quest to find the Nazi concentration camp guard who tortured his father, a storyline that gives the whole thing some much needed coherence.

No Sorrentino film is without its visual splendours, and there are many memorable scenes and one-off images that stay in the mind. The choice of music is also inventive and interesting. There are also some very good cameo roles, especially Frances McDormand and Kerry Condon.

However, it remains a frustrating hotch-potch of a movie that is too heavily flavoured by Cheyenne's quirks and tics.

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