Film Reviews by Kurtz

Welcome to Kurtz's film reviews page. Kurtz has written 91 reviews and rated 673 films.

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He Was a Quiet Man

Directionless

(Edit) 16/08/2010

You’re thrown straight into the action here as Christian Slater’s bullied office drone is already working out who’s going to get the bullet at the start of the film, but things take an unexpected turn as someone else beats him to it- and having played its ace card with the workplace shoot-out so early, the movie appears unsure how to fill the next 70 minutes. There follows some pitch-black comedy as he tries to help “24”’s Elisha Cuthbert, crippled in the shooting, to end it all and starts up an unlikely and faintly creepy relationship with her. It has its moments, but any movie that gives a goldfish better lines than William H. Macy has surely missed a trick.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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MicMacs

Where's the love, Jean-Pierre?

(Edit) 18/08/2010

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films are never short of visual delights- they are full of vibrant autumnal colours, dizzying close-ups and amazing stunts, and “Micmacs” is no exception; characters shimmy up and down sheer walls, get fired out of cannons and generally take their lives in their hands. Entertaining, certainly, and the story is likely to be appealing enough, Danny Boon’s wounded derelict finding a purpose to his life as he tries to bring down the arms dealers behind his childhood bereavement and his adult injury. But this time there’s a crucial element missing- where is the timid childlike love of “Delicatessen”, the murderous passion of “A Very Long Engagement” and where, above all, is the delightful romance of “Amélie?” Jeunet tries to fob us off with some injury-time snogging between Boon and a contortionist ( plenty of potential here…) but good as this actress might be at fitting inside a fridge, it doesn’t make up for the fact that she wears a balaclava and she cannot act, so it all falls a bit flat.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Hot Rod

Good fun, but it won't change your life.

(Edit) 20/04/2009

Andy Samberg hasn’t made much impact in the UK yet, and the very modest commercial success of “Hot Rod” at the UK box office won’t change that, but he is a confident physical comedian with a growing reputation in the US which is built on his work for “Saturday Night Live”. “Hot Rod” is a good showcase for his talents- he plays a hapless would-be stuntman with a trio of doofus pals, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get from the start. It’s undemanding, good-hearted, a mite predictable but there are some inspired moments, usually involving Samberg undergoing some kind of physical torture. Isla Fisher twinkles perkily in an identikit “long-term crush” role.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Capote

If you watch one movie about Truman Capote...

(Edit) 05/06/2008

..make it “Infamous”- featuring Brit Toby Jones as Capote, it’s a much livelier take on essentially the same segment of the famous author’s life than this offering. In “Capote,” Hoffman’s portrayal of the first gay superstar is faultless, but the Capote’s lisp and determined mincing are surely a bit of an open goal to any actor worth their salt. Endless scenes of Hoffman sitting on planes staring at clouds, fiddling with his specs and unscrewing scotch bottles don’t really portray the inner torment that they are supposed to. Sure, there are valid points made about the morality of Capote becoming a national icon by selling the true-life story of two murderers and a family of innocent victims, but it all gets a bit too introspective- maybe the director was too busy getting Hoffman’s cravat right to worry about the audience.

2 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Atonement

Some of the UK's finest on top form

(Edit) 19/05/2009

A faithful and visually stunning adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel, featuring great performances by the two leads and a healthy dose of unreliable post-modern storytelling. It’s always watchable and beautifully acted right down the cast list, but its fractured narrative doesn’t always hang together- the Dunkirk sequence is mind-boggling, for example, but it doesn’t move the story on at all, and the terrible injustice meted out to McAvoy’s Robbie is really just a standard “toffs v.plebs” episode, with Benedict Cumberbatch literally twirling his moustache as the posh villain in the background. Minor gripes, though, because "Atonement" is a richly entertaining movie with a powerful emotional punch.

4 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Tell No One

C'est magnifique!!

(Edit) 03/04/2008

When it comes to films, the French can sometimes be accused of putting the "f" in "art", but they also have a yen for the hard-boiled crime thriller, and this one, based on a Harlan Corben story, delivers in spades. You get good cops, bad cops, shady underworld allies, "Argh!You've got the wrong man!" moments, a couple of messy murders, jaywalking as an art form and a gruelling chase scene that wears you out just watching.And, as it's set in France, you get plenty of enthusiastic smoking, so if you are one of these Brits who have to brave the elements for your fag break, this film will fill you with nostalgia! It's brilliant-but is it art? Who cares? Vive les policiers!

16 out of 20 members found this review helpful.

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The Bothersome Man

Pining for the fjords?

(Edit) 06/05/2009

A Norwegian drama that's interesting rather than gripping, “A Bothersome Man” deals with main character Andreas’ arrival in and adjustment to a strange new town where life is calm and orderly, the townsfolk are polite and attentive, and human existence is bland and colourless. Filling the screen with beige and grey and leaving numerous clues as to what he thinks the town really stands for, director Jens Lien works hard to sustain interest, including a lengthy and faintly comical sequence in which Andreas tries to do himself in with the help of an underground train. The whole thing resembles nothing more than that pre- Brad Pitt segment of “Fight Club,” with enough lingering shots of interior design to last this spectator a lifetime.

4 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Is it me? I should love it but...

(Edit) 20/05/2008

...Why don’t I like this film more? It pushes all the right buttons in that it’s handsomely mounted with beautifully desolate settings, and it celebrates the triumph of friendship and loyalty shown by Tommy Lee Jones’ rancher to his dead friend over the callous indifference of the lawmen and particularly Barry Pepper’s racist border guard. And yet, and yet… after a promising opening which quickly sketches in the social tensions in a dead-end Texas town and shows us the roots of Jones’ character’s friendship with Estrada, Jones kidnaps Pepper and forces him to transport the hastily buried body of Estrada back to his Mexican homeland. And from then on it’s pretty much a two-hander with Pepper suffering all sorts of indignities and Jones setting world records for gruff dourness. For me, these two (Estrada, being dead, contributes little) make rather dull companions for the last forty minutes of the film and the faint hope of Pepper learning from his horrible experiences is all we are left with at the end- that and a palpable sense of relief that our journey, like Estrada’s, is over.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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This Is England

This is Brilliant

(Edit) 07/03/2008

Wonderful stuff- passionate,tender, fierce, reflective- Meadows hits the jackpot here with a searing account of a child searching for a father figure in the darker regions of Britain's underclass. The "me" decade of the eighties is brilliantly conjured up, and the fate of those who clearly weren't "one of us" smacks you between the eyes. You can feel the intensity of the director's vision and the commitment he gets from his young cast is amazing. Occasional rough edges in the dialogue and acting only add to the impact- you're not experiencing events and emotions through layers of Hollywood polish; this is England-this is REAL.

5 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

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The Savages

Hot Parka action.

(Edit) 16/12/2008

First of all, don’t expect much in the way of comedy- there are moments of wry laughter and some of the characters are in a marginally better place by the end than at the start, but most of the humour is as bleak as the weather. A relief, really, as the subject matter- ill-matched siblings get landed with formerly estranged Dad, now in advanced state of decay- is no laughing matter. As you’d expect from the cast list, there are uniformly excellent performances, with Laura Linney again the stand-out performer as the brittle but tenacious daughter. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a more internalised performance, huddled inside a rumpled parka for most of the film and permitted only couple of hissy fits in car parks to let us know what he really thinks about the hand that life has dealt him.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Love Me If You Dare

They both need a slap!

(Edit) 24/12/2010

My fellow reviewer is absolutely right- despite the visual appeal of this movie in which the style of fellow-countrymen Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Michel Gondry is heavily referenced, and the convincing portrayal of the trials of childhood love, when they reach adulthood you expect them to , well, you know...grow up, but no such luck- the restaurant "proposal" scene has to plumb new depths of psychological nastiness,and the viewer ends up completely alienated by their mutual petulance and cruelty.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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The Squid and the Whale

(Un)happy families

(Edit) 10/09/2008

An unflinching and at times darkly comic portrayal of the break-up of a family of American intellectuals, this is Laura Linney territory and she is excellent as ever as the wife who has outgrown her pompous loser of a husband. Jeff Daniels is brilliant in this role, creating an appallingly petty character full of bitterness over the absence of the literary success he feels he deserves, but still winning a few shreds of sympathy for the indignities he suffers. The kids are hapless bystanders in this conflict, but they are convincing too, especially Jesse Eisenberg’s “daddy clone”, who nails just the right combination of arrogance and insecurity. Just like in real life, no-one is completely at fault for the break-up, and no-one is completely innocent; the family just seem to have got to the end of their time together. Not a bundle of laughs, but beautifully done.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Drôle de Félix

Voyage of (self) discovery

(Edit) 12/04/2010

As cheery and freewheeling as its eponymous hero, “Drôle de Félix” is a likeable travelogue which charts the progress of Félix from Dieppe in Normandy to Marseilles and beyond in search of his long-lost father. On the way, he meets a cast of colourful characters who seem to represent members of the family that he never had. Félix is perpetually cheerful and prone to breaking into song and doing a little jig for no apparent reason, but there is a serious side to the tale too, as a racist murder haunts his progress through the beautiful countryside.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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The Devil's Backbone

Old-school scares

(Edit) 29/08/2009

If you though there was a bit too much CGI in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the estimable “Hellboy” series, this film shows that even before people started throwing money at him, del Toro was a brilliant director who knew how to tease an audience and get the best out of young actors. With barely any of the jump-scares or gore so beloved of modern directors, he builds an atmosphere of dread and foreboding, relying on old-fashioned spookiness rather than the more visceral stuff we’ve come to expect. But it’s not just a satisfyingly scary ghost story- there are love triangles, new-kid-in-school ordeals and it’s all played out against the turbulent backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Just brilliant.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Let the Right One In

Easy on the grue...

(Edit) 13/10/2009

I was so excited about the reviews of this film and so frustrated at its brief life at the cinema (Cheers, Kettering Odeon!) that I bought the novel to tide me over before it appeared on DVD- big mistake; the book is a headstomping, eyeballs out gruefest which would have made Stephen King wince, so when the movie finally re-appeared I approached it with some trepidation. Needn’t have worried though. The gore is reigned in here (though still present in short bursts) and the director focuses instead on the odd, dangerous friendship between the two leads. Brilliantly done with some fantastic shots of snowy Sweden. If you liked this, check out “Frostbiten”-what is it with the Swedes and vampires?

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
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