Film Reviews by Cliff

Welcome to Cliff's film reviews page. Cliff has written 14 reviews and rated 14 films.

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Wonderful story-telling

(Edit) 19/06/2020

The story-telling in this film is as mind-stretchingly ambitious as "Cloud Atlas", taking on epic themes that challenge the normal constraints of our reality. The key to understanding is set out by the wise grandmother as she teaches her granddaughter the traditional art of braiding: "Musubi is the old way of calling the local guardian god. This word has profound meaning. Tying thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi. The flow of time is Musubi. These are all the god's power. So the braided cords that we make are the god's art and represent the flow of time itself. They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, and then connect again."

As a visual theme, we see the braided thread in the girl's hairband and the boys wristband, in the trail of the comet and the umbilical cord as well as in the interweaving train tracks. The thread of the story seems to weave and break in unpredictable ways, it tangles, rejoins and unravels, which requires some concentration to keep up with. Finally the power of union which is implicit in these tangled threads proves greater than time and fate, with all things coming together happily in the end.

I watched this twice, but twice is not enough.

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Mary and the Witch's Flower

An enjoyable film for all ages

(Edit) 12/02/2020

Very much enjoyed this film. The dialogue is in good colloquial English, well acted, and the countryside looks English too. As a children's fantasy adventure it works well, and for adults there is some food for thought. The key spell "What's done is done - until it's undone" is surely a response to the themes of climate change and extinction, those creations of our own 'magic'.

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Synecdoche, New York

Depressing

(Edit) 09/12/2019

An almost unrelieved drag through the wreck of the lead character's life, as he sees it all slipping away from him while he desperately and unsuccessfully tries to make sense of it. One or two nice quirky touches but not a patch on Eternal Sunshine. To be honest, after an hour of misery which seemed longer, and with another hour still to run, I gave up and watched something funny as an antidote.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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A Letter to Momo

Uplifting, warm-hearted and sensitive

(Edit) 14/11/2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It draws on familiar antecedents from Labyrinth to Spirited Away and yet transcends them. Despite all the humour and adventure, it deals with the difficult issue of a parent's death in a sensitive and thoughtful way, rather than being simplistic and sentimental. The artwork is based on real-life locations and is drawn in a deliberately artistic way. The animation of the human figures is carefully observed.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Short Circuit 2

Good Family Entertainment

(Edit) 07/07/2019

I remember taking this one out from the video hire shop when my kids were still small. It's just as enjoyable now as it was then. Children can enjoy it on one level, while adults can get all the jokes that the young ones miss. This is a sequel to the original Short Circuit which is also worth watching, but this one is better. Underneath all the fun, there is a theme of alienation in the big city - where do you fit in, how can you get accepted as a real person - but with a light touch, never preachy. At the end the message is that America is still the best place to be, and sadly this is the one thing that now seems dated.

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Manchester by the Sea

Not easy but beautiful

(Edit) 24/06/2019

The story starts where most tragedies end, and asks the question: what happens next? To quote the song "Jack and Diane", "life goes on long after the reason for living is gone". The film follows Affleck's character as he struggles with his inner demons and tries to make the best of a nightmare reality. There are no happy endings, just a few precious glimpses of light in the dark.

There is so much loving care in the making of this film; a little detail sticks with me - when Affleck is packing up his few belongings he picks up three small framed photos (which we never see), carefully wraps them in his jumper and places it gently in his suitcase. No spoilers - but this is poignant. The performances are brilliant; Affleck fully deserved that Oscar.

So - not easy viewing, but well worth sticking with .

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The Age of Adaline

Boring chick flick

(Edit) 30/04/2019

Not so much a story as an idea spun out into nearly two hours of morose dreariness, ending just the way you thought it would all along. I had to leave after the first hour - my wife endured to the end. She gives it an extra star for Harrison Ford.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Stranger Than Fiction

Thoughtful humour

(Edit) 08/04/2019

This film is mildly amusing rather than laugh out loud. The storyline takes its time and you have to sit with it as it unfolds, but it gathers strength and pace as it goes along, with a twist right at the end which made me want to cheer. Some excellent performances - Will Ferrell surprisingly good in a straight acting role; Emma Thompson doing a fine job as a slightly barmy writer. There are some carefully placed thought-provoking ideas discreetly tucked in to the narrative, which stay with you long after the film has ended: what is better - to have a long life or a good death?

So - not an action-packed blockbuster, or a har-de-har comedy, but a clever little film for the discerning.

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The Kings of Summer

Passes the time amiably

(Edit) 05/02/2019

This film should have been called "Ferris Bueller - The Prequel". While not as good as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it has the same themes - smart-ass kid growing up, trouble with dysfunctional parents, having adventures and emerging older and maybe a bit wiser. It has the same mild wittiness and unlikely scenarios. Basically if you liked Ferris, this film will be good to relax to.

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Still Life

A beautiful film

(Edit) 17/10/2018

Certainly the best film I've watched this year. The composition of each shot is composed meticulously, the colours in muted greys and blues, the haunting music, the spareness of the script, combine to make this a high quality piece of work.

But I was affected most by the story-telling, and the little details that almost go unnoticed unless you pay attention. For me, it was a story about the importance of being human, of caring about people even after their death, in a world where no-one seems to have time enough or money to care any more.

Some film critics seem to have missed the whole point, and misunderstood the ending, which should not be seen as some bizarre supernatural happy ending, but as a visual metaphor that completes the message that the film conveys. To put it another way, without the ending, we would be left with a nihilistic story about a lonely and pointless life. But I've said enough; anyone with a heart will understand.

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The Tempest

Wonderful settings, fine performances

(Edit) 17/09/2018

Helen Mirren makes a totally believable female Prospero in this adaptation of Shakespeare's well-known play. She is ably supported by a fine cast, memorably including Russel Brand as Trinculo. Visually it's imaginative and beautiful, although sometimes the effects are distracting. My only quibble is that Taymor has tried to improve on Shakespeare by rearranging the order of some of the scenes and speeches, a step too far in my opinion. Generally lively and entertaining, worth watching.

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Dead Poets Society

Still inspiring after 30 years

(Edit) 17/09/2018

This film has lost none of its power since it was made nearly thirty years ago. It took me nearly a week to get over it, repeating "They're only actors" to myself, over and over. It poignantly demonstrates the tragic consequences when the unstoppable force of imagination and creativity meets the immovable object of the establishment. You watch this and you think of the four students shot and killed in a peaceful demonstration at Ohio University, you think of flowers placed in the guns of armed soldiers, you think of the hopes of so many young talented sons and daughters dashed on the rocks of indifference and militarism. This is beautifully and sensitively played out. What a great soul we have lost with Robin Williams.

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Life of Pi

A Piece Of Art

(Edit) 18/07/2018

Visually stunning, a feast for the eyes. Well worth seeing for this alone. Suraj Sharma's performance, especially as he is the only human on screen for most of the film, is never less than perfect.

But somehow the film seems to me to be lacking in substance. The opening scenes which describe Pi's multi-faith background are totally irrelevant to what follows. At the end of the film, I was left asking myself: what was that all about? The most that you can take from it is that life is the story you tell, and you can tell any story you please - although this almost seems tacked on to the end as an afterthought.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Dressmaker

Silly and nasty

(Edit) 05/07/2018

I wouldn't have thought it possible for a film to be both silly and nasty at the same time, but this one is. The competent film-making and good performances, particularly by Judy Davis, are all wasted on a story-line that would have been rejected for Tom and Jerry. Basically the film can't decide whether it is a dark comedy or a menacing tale of hatred and revenge, and so it fails on both counts.

It does have its moments, but these are not sufficient to salvage this one from the B-movie bin. Two hours of my life I will never get back.

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