Film Reviews by DS

Welcome to DS's film reviews page. DS has written 74 reviews and rated 77 films.

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The Personal History of David Copperfield

It Would Magic If They Could Fit David Copperfield into Two Hours Running Time....see what I did.

(Edit) 26/09/2020

Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell were always going to have a task at hand without worrying about what a few dyed-in-the-wool racists think about having a black actor playing a white actor’s mum and that task is the same as anyone who tries to commit well-loved Dickens novel to the cinema. It the fact that the length of a film cannot fit all the nuance and intricacies of most, if not all, of Dickens novels.

So we end up with quick cuts, exclusions and skimming from the original text, so as it ever was.

Iannucci is well known for his scalpel sharp wit and take on both modern and historical politics showing it up for all of its redundancy, pomp and ridiculousness but clearly the modern world and our glorious leaders have made his take on this redundant. So why not to Dickens who stories were equally scapel sharp, astute comments on Victorian Britain?

This take on David Copperfield flows with an eccentric oddball humour from the off and we are swept along with some speed through the title character’s trials and tribulations. Unfortunately this is at the expense of supporting characters so we only get thumbnail sketches of them and it depends on the skill of the actor whether you connect with the person on the screen. Due to some excellent casting and some great locations in general the film gets away with it.

Dev Patel is uniformly excellent in anything he puts his hand to and his kind-hearted and honest David Copperfield is no exception and luckily he is ably supported by Peter Capaldi as an unlikely Mr. Micawber, as optimistic as ever, and a myriad of experienced and talented actors from Hugh Laurie, in a role that seems to have been waiting for Hugh Laurie over the years, Tilda Swinton carrying on her quest to seemingly play only strange and eccentric people, and the aforementioned Rosalind Eleazar as Agnes who captured all attention as soon as he appeared on the screen for me. Ben Whishaw must be mentioned in dispatches as everyone’s favourtie slimey, hang-wringing Uriah Heep, black hat firmly in place but oddly just enough sympathy at the closing stages of the film.

The problem is not in the direction, writing, cinematography, sets or acting but rather the material and after enjoying and watching The Personal History of David Copperfield you feel as if some large part of it was left on the editing floor, it wasn’t it was simply this was story telling pared down to fit in with cinema running times and modern audiences.

As such the film did a good job and all those involved such proud and pleased with their efforts, Unfortunately though, and I say this with a heavy-heart being an admirer of Armando Innaunci, this film proved to me that David Copperfield would be best served with a high value production TV series with enough episodes to do the story justice.

Still fun enough for a Sunday afternoon viewing with all the family.

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Aniara

I Like Space, I Like Swedin. Swedes in Space!

(Edit) 22/09/2020

For a Swedish film without a Hollywood budget, particularly science-fiction, you must admire the special effects and future-look presented. Presumably a luxury craft transporting people to a new life would look spic and span with clean lines more like some giant shopping mall geared to luxury for people who were heading into an unknown and Martian life. The technology of Mima is slightly mysterious throughout and presumably it some type of organic-based machine that can interact with the human brain but that is left to the viewer and this really is not a problem story-wise.

The acting, as far as I can tell, is good throughout and no hint of the histrionics were are usually treated to in this type of film, especially when ‘disaster’ strikes the control room is quiet calm and trying to figure out what to do. Taking notes Ron ‘shouty arm-waving’ Howard? It was refreshing to see there was tough situation being faced in the ship’s control room without shouting, screaming and foot stamping. Like real life. Clearly the dialogue is in Swedish and I, being the dumb-arsed British person I am can hardly speak English, so I have no idea if the actors were delivering corny lines and overacting but their body language and general demeanour would say not, so I’m going with that view.

Apparently, the film is based entirely on well-known Swedish poem written in 1956 at a time when some people believed we would not even get to the moon let alone protracted space travel or ‘emigration’ to a new world. So it comes as some surprise that a film based on this premise made in 2018 still features conceits in that work. Would the people in charge be fully aware of space debris and plan around that before risking thousands of people’s lives? Would what appeared to be an Allen bolt cause that much damage? Jet passenger planes have three back-ups for every system but a massive passenger carrying space craft does not? How would they survive on algae and where does the water come from? All these questions and others will be answered by someone with more time on their hands and who is more worried about it than me. To fair to Aniara you can do this with every futuristic type story and corners are often cut for expedience and other eminently sensible and budgetary reasons.

What Aniara tries to be about is the human condition and much deeper themes than adventures in space. Take civilised people away from their world, put them in another world that is limited and self-contained. Take away their hope and what happens? Lord of the Flies meets Alien – or something. The entire story is anchored on Jonsson's Mimaroben and it is to her credit that this anchor is strong and firm and keeps you watching. The supporting cast are all strong and believable with no real heroes or villains although Arvin Kananian as the captain Chefone is a near as you get to this but even his character is placed in a very difficult situation and he never goes full on Sir Jasper Naughtybonce.

It would spoil the story to tell you how it progresses but it is no surprise to say that overall the feeling is bleak and downbeat and holds no great faith in human’s nature over the course of the situation. Being Swedish if you are offended by full frontal nudity, male and female, lesbian sex, orgies, and the odd willy bonging about in your face this is not the science fiction for you.

Existential, challenging, depressing, mesmerising and infuriating Aniara is certainly not your ordinary science-fiction story, in a way you could say it is very Swedish and whilst I can see why some people would find it dull and lacking in an peril or action, why does it have to be I may ask, it strikes me as a film that if you watch it to the conclusion you will not forget it in a hurry.

Right who is up for starting an orgy club? No one? Okay off to Sweden I go.

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Upgrade

I'm Tom Hardy and my wife is Tom Hardy

(Edit) 15/09/2020

The secret of Upgrade is not that it is an upgrade on a fairly standard ‘A.I. is not too happy’ science-fiction story but it is an upgrade on the attitude and application of the story by the screenwriter, actors, director and just about everyone else involved.

Filmed on the budget usually allocated to the stars onsite ‘never-to-be-used’ gym of most blockbusters the makers somehow managed to wring every ounce out of the value of the money. The ‘not too distant in the future’ visuals and science is impressive and is the glue that holds what is in all honesty a fairly hokey story together. Logan Marshall-Green is a fine Tom Hardy-a-like and funnily enough by not being Tom Hardy he does not have to play up to it so the performance is subdued and good. His former Power Ranger wife, Melanie Vallejo, is the motivational force so is not used to the full extent but the relationship, what you see of it, is affecting and most importantly believable.

So far so good. The story itself is not as original as much as it wants to be but as I have said when handled competently this does pale into insignificance. The twist ending is perhaps not as twisty as they like but is still a good moment to close the story and give the Blade Runner, Mad Max, Death Wish and a dozen other films in the mix a nice tidy finish.

Upgrade is hokum but fine grade hokum wrapped in fun, gore and poignancy, the acting is good throughout although it would be nice to see the standard ‘Tech Genius’ being more of a normal person because the character used in Upgrade is well-worn. The special effects and future-world gimmicks are devised and executed very well and add to the overall feel of the story’s world. As the story progresses this gives more heft to the technology that drives us along. All good.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a tight budget forces makers and production companies to be creative and the results often puts blockbusters to shame, and of course not being able to explode buildings and have hordes of CGI baddies being mown down means more character-driven scenes and more character development.

Like I said – all good.

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The Salvation

Oh Ah - Seen It All Before!

(Edit) 06/09/2020

The set-up is interesting and different enough to grab the average viewers attention. A Danish immigrant to the US awaits the rival of his wife from Denmark, having been in the harsh West for 7 years on his own. So far so good. Then have your hero being played by the enigmatic magnetic presence of Mads Mikkelsen and double that up with his brother, Mikael Persbrandt, both survivors the Second Schleswig War and you have an interesting and new twist on your traditional Oat Opera.

What we get for our money is the senseless slaughter of innocents so that the protagonist has a just motivation for his slaughter. Very, very, film western. We are then treated to very bad man in charge who seemingly enjoys murdering people willy-nilly for mainly money reasons and we are away. From this point on if you have watched more than two Westerns you know what is coming and how the film ends and so it does. This is the film’s biggest failing.

You have beautiful cinematography using South African vistas to reproduce the desolate and harsh west to impressive effect with atmospheric and haunting skies and lighting tying into the action on screen. Add to this, the aforementioned accomplished Danish actors and the ever consistent Johnathan Pryce, Jeffery Dean Morgan, the underrated and underused Eric Cantona and the wonderfully expressive, luckily for her, Eva Green, heroically eye-brow acting, which she is nails easily, but I feel she done dirty in this role. Give someone as sublime and such a screen personality as her something to say for goodness sake.

The very atmospheric music is produced by Kasper Winding channelling The Last of Us’ Gustavo Santaolalla to such a point I kept expect Joel to pop up and get murdered senselessly but as similar as it seems it works perfectly. Jeffery Dean Morgan proves that his screen persona is pantomime baddy has his character that audience must hate is so bad, so ‘evil’ it borders on comedy parody and as much as I enjoyed the film every time he spoke or did anything on screen it had a tendency to make me laugh or at best hiss and boo. Much more convincing was Eric Cantona as his number two, who with a few lines at best was left to portray character with looks and posture. Less is more and in some ways at the least the Corsican had more shades in there rather than just wearing a big black hat.

The plot is nothing you have not seen before time and time again, starting in Japan and culminating with Sergio Leone we really need a new angle something fresh. When Leone brought the world the ‘Spaghetti Western’ he was trying to move on from the clean-shaven hero/baddy format with unshaven, unkempt, gunmen, blood, death and double crossing. It was not new but it was in your face and sufficiently different enough to stimulate the imagination of the cinema going public. In particular the motivation for the senseless murder and destruction is disappointingly trite and vanilla and also if just thought about for a few seconds collapses under the preposterousness.

Unfortunately The Salvation, whilst worth a viewing just due to the actors on display, is another slightly more modern version of the Spaghetti format. The story is, dare I say, melodramatic and somewhat simplistic, almost childish, none more so than Jeffery Dean Morgan’s set to 11 villain, and this detracts tremendously from the attempt at a western. It is not different enough to get excited about.

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IT: Chapter Two

Not all It....I'll get my coat.

(Edit) 02/09/2020

Chapter Two comes in at over three hours long. For what the story brings to you, the way it is paced and presented this is way too long. There is a lot of flashback padding a device that a lot of story-tellers like to use nowadays but something I feel is quite often unnecessary. The device of collecting their individual 'items' or totems to defeat Pennywise that has to be completed on their own, seems to be lifted from a video game and makes little sense other than to create horrifying scenes to scare the audience. For a supernatural killing machine Pennywise or 'It' is singularly crap at killing these individual adults who fall for his tricks every single time despite knowing what he is all about, he has no problems with other people though.

Pennywise is in fact a big problem for me. Brought to life with an enthusiastic unpleasantness by Bill Skarsgård like many movie villains he seems particularly inept in crucial moments and then deadly and all-powerful in others. In Chapter Two he is so poor at killing the protagonists who are already terrified of him, he feeds on fear, then he helps Henry Bowers, Stephen Kings stock psycho-bully, from the first film now an adult and in......shock again...a mental hospital, to escape to murder his 'Losers' enemies. Henry turns out to be dab squib, he was in the book if I remember properly and is fairly easily disposed of, I was never sure of his purpose in the story, even more so in the film. Pennywise is so cartoonish that he becomes a slightly more deadly version of Sideshow Bob but also is at poor at getting his tormentors as Sideshow Bob is. It just is not scary.

Andy Muschietti treats us to little glimpses of the films that he has liked in the past and whilst some film-loving viewers will enjoy this I personally felt it was cack-handed. In the original book Pennywise takes the form of films or popular culture figures that the kids would be terrified of, so Michael Landon's 'Teenage Werewolf' and so forth, the film-makers removed this aspect as they felt modern audiences would not get the references. Instead we get other references, not to do with the modus operandi of It that some modern viewers 'won't get'. Odd choice I think.

A running joke throughout the film is James McAvoy's Stephen King avatar, is constantly being told his stories have bad endings and he cannot write them. He's even told by Stephen King himself in another cameo yuk, yuk. The funny thing is It both in book and film form and in this incarnation rather prove the point. The ending, and in particular Pennywise's demise is poor and a letdown. From that point on the reconciliation of the 'Losers' is handled better but so many questions are swept under the carpet. People could not have forgotten which is hinted at is the power of It because It was dead. So there is a lot of destruction, death and mayhem that appears to have never really been explained.

It: Chapter Two is longer and weaker than Chapter One but is entertaining enough to watch but the real problem is the length, scope and themes of the story. This large Stephen King novel with multiple storylines, characters and time periods is really best suited for a multi-part TV series, which of course was created to reasonable effect back in 1990.

The film is okay but it's not all it.

Clever ain't I?

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Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: Same film with a few extras

(Edit) 31/08/2020

As Jack Black says in the Blu-Ray extras due to the amount of money Jumanji In the Jungle made he knew he was ‘going to get a call’ and that in nutshell is why this sequel exists, making money. This in itself does not make the film bad or poor but purely from a lover of films point of view it is disappointing.

All the same cast return with added Danny DeVito, playing the same role Danny DeVito plays now, frankly it is good and he can do it with his eyes closed and Danny Glover more or less in his comfort zone playing a role he can do with his eyes closed also. The writers had to find a reason for the game to still exist, it was scrapped in the first film, and why anyone would go back into it. Spencer is the character chosen to start it all off again but by a sad sack, again. So far, all good.

The story zips along with the fun and exciting pace of the first film, Rory McCann being the standout as a fine baddie, and everyone has fun doing impressions of their actor colleagues with varying degrees of success, some inhabit the character and seem to be that person in a different avatar whereas others just do a good Mike Yarwood impression, I’m looking at you Awkwafina.

I laughed at the run time and had fun but overall, the feeling I was getting was ‘I’ve seen this before, and only recently’. The actors, particularly the youngsters who transform into the ‘star-actors’ give the impression of being good friends and lively happy young adults, a weird way to put it but this aspect of the film made me smile.

The effects and cinematography are good, the fun parts are fun and the peril in general is perilous even if you know the outcome before the film even starts. I felt that the makers were trying to shoe-horn too many people in with SeaPlane (Colin Hanks/Nick Jones) returning, one thinks would he really go back into something he’d been in for 20 years, and as mentioned the veteran actors and Awkwafina added to the mix. I am not sure it was needed and I am not convinced it worked. Having said that I did not think a sequel was needed.

Jumanji: The Next Level is a fun romp but all too familiar and not different or interesting enough from the original. It tries to make some vague points about keeping friends, reconciliation and so forth but nothing that you have not seen before albeit worse and better.

From the ending sequence the makers clearly want to make Jumanji: Not Again and it will probably happen. Therein lies the problem with film making for major studios today.

Oh, and Lilith turns up at the end without her hair in a tight bun. I do not watch a lot of US TV, so I have not seen Bebe Neuwirth for a long time and it was nice to see her in a little cameo.

The Next Level, watch it, enjoy it, do not remember it a day later.

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Joker

Masterpiece? Not really, poor take on mental health problems - again!

(Edit) 06/08/2020

First things first, no matter what the makers and actors would like the thing this is a comic book movie, it is set in the DC world of Batman. Clearly Phoenix and director Phillips want this to be a dark, gritty, realistic tale of spiralling mental health and how it affects on man who becomes an iconic criminal from the series.

I get the feeling that Phillips wanted to make Taxi Driver and could only get it made if he strapped it onto Batman. The Batman references are shoehorned in and for me stuck out like a sore thumb. The Arthur’s mother, Thomas Wayne, Arthur Fleck triangle does not really work and makes little sense. Without these connections you would still have an entertaining if flawed story of man’s decent into madness.

Therein lies the rub. Another story where a serious mental health problem instantly means that murder and enjoying murder is the final outcome. It is derivative, boring and overall gives a poor view of mental illness for those that have little experience of it. My sister and her husband were senior mental health nurses and yes there were a few cases of murder that they knew about it but even they were pathetic and hopeless individuals. Yes I know it is a fiction, yes I know it is Joker and an origin story but for goodness sake come up with something new, something different, something thousands of other films have not done.

The actors from all the cast is good, Phoenix, whilst always a bit over-the-top if allowed to be, is showy but sincere and good, the murky dark and unpleasant seedy side of ‘Gotham’ is realised well and looks good, so far, so Mean Streets.

I particularly liked the dynamic between Penge and his mother, a very impressive Frances Conroy, and his work colleagues, but if we are to go down the rabbit hole of psychotic genius where was this part of Arthur’s character in the film and also come to think of it I could not really tell the difference between Arthur on his medication and Arthur not on his medication.

The good points of Joker make the film watchable and enjoyable so do not think this is a hate piece by an old man, but the plot points, the story dynamics certainly drive credibility to a stretching point. Afterall it has been repeatedly stated this is adult film for grown ups in a Batman world.

There is story device, that is made to drive a point home, that once it clicks into play, is so obvious, seen so many times before in so many films, that if you are any type of ‘film fan’ you will call it out the minute it happens. It is not as clever or amazing as some people think.

As with most exciting crime and murderous intrigue films how Arthur gets to interact with important characters, particularly characters who he would get little access to, borders on a small child’s logic, it becomes close to being comically funny.

As with most modern ‘masterpieces’ it is not in any way a masterpiece and if you have seen a lot of films you have seen it all before. Like most films made nowadays it could have done with some sympathetic to the audience editing.

If it seems like I hated the film but this is not true, I enjoyed watching the story unfold and even the graphic violence did not bother me. In the entire running time three moments really took me out of the story and I strongly believe they could have been handled better but that is personal choice.

The only argument you will truly get from me is on two points, the mental illness aspect is tired and hackneyed and this is no masterpiece.

Overall if you are looking for something different from the DC world of Batman this is recommended but if you looking for a dark cinematic masterpiece I hope you find it but I think quite a few might disagree.

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Bad Words

Bad Words are funny but sometimes inappropriate.

(Edit) 22/07/2020

Jason Bateman directs and acts in the film with the assurance of someone who has been in the ‘business’ since he was ten. Particularly in the comedy genre he is sure-footed and knows his way around. It helps he can call on Alison Janney and Kathryn Hahn as good ship-hands that obviously made sure any stormy waters were traversed with ease. Then throw in Philip Baker Hall and your main acting roles are safe and sound. The casting of the young genius could have been the weak link but luckily youngster Rohan Chand more than holds his own in what may have proved a problematical character.

All in all the sea Bateman chose to sail was familiar waters and if I had know beforehand he was directing a film, and the subject matter, I would immediately assume it was going to be at least watchable. The humour, as he described himself, was darker and more like his own humour but he said he does not like that style of humour if it comes from a mean place. The frankly horrid and disgusting put-downs only come when Trilby is provoked or attacked first. Except of course for two scenes when he wants to overcome particularly tough child opponents. Initially, without thinking, these scenes are funny but on reflection the meanness is all too obvious. I am overthinking but I could not help but remember the little girl and how Trilby nixed her. A scene suggested by Bateman, that the writer, Andrew Dodge, (in the video extras) thought was hilarious, but was it really that funny?

Comedy is meant to make you laugh and with some film-makers it can also hold a mirror up to us whilst we laugh, provoking different emotions and thoughts. Bad Words attempts to show the consequences of reneging on responsibility and to a lesser extent the futility of seeking a redemptive revenge although perhaps this is overly analytical as Bad Words is played almost entirely for laughs.

It does bother me that Guy Trilby’s quest makes sense in a ridiculous way and he redeems himself in the eyes of the audience with a touching end to the story, this truly can be called a trope. Yet there are still those two reprehensible acts that are enacted on very young children. These are never further addressed and appear to have no consequences for Bateman's character despite them being truly despicable, in one case surely causing serious problems within a family. Okay it is a comedy but why drive the character to these unlikeable actions to show how much he is prepared to go to win a competition against children, then redeem him at the end but have no conclusion for characters he has wronged in a very unnecessary manner? It is possible, Ricky Gervais did it recently, making his own character unlikable, albeit with an understandable reason, but still having a kind heart so that later he attempts to redress the balance. A bit 'heart string tugging' and possibly unlikely but needed for a horrible character that you want the audience to like. Guy Trilby only does this with Rohan Chand’s character and to a lesser extent two others that drive the story one, but that is it, peripheral characters can just cope with it. I think they were hoping the viewer would forget. It does seem a bit mean-spirited which is a shame in what at times is ostensibly a fun film.

Bad Words is a confusing film for me. I laughed at the running time and enjoyed the story and how it ended. Afterwards I thought about it more clearly.

Moral of the story? Do not think about films.

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Knives Out

The Knives were out, but not Running (see what I did there).

(Edit) 26/06/2020

Knives Out is a ‘whodunnit’ in the old style very much Agatha Christie brought up-to-date. Within this we of course immediately encompass all the problems that you get with this genre. Overly complicated frankly ridiculous scenarios that stretch credibility to stretching point.

But, and it is a big but, this is what you are signing up for when you walk through the large doors of Harlan Thrombey’s country homes. A carer who is violently ill when they tell a lie, a private detective keeping the police in check and every single person in the building appearing somewhat guilty or shifty at the least.

The machinations that this takes you through points you to one or two suspects with the one the director wants you to think, on and off, as guilty being perhaps too obvious. Everyone has their motives but throughout the course of the film I could not think of any of them really being a murderer which perhaps is how director Johnson wanted it.

The cast is stellar with the painfully pretty Ana de Armas holding her own against the dominating presence of Daniel Craig, Michael Shannon and Christopher Plummer. Every ‘star’ in the film gets their set pieces and screen time and everyone seems to be acting with relish. Which considering the subject matter is what they should be doing. Jamie Lee Curtis has great fun as the acidic Linda alongside Toni Collette tearing it up as the somewhat flakey Joni, so much that perhaps Katherine Langford, Riki Lindhome and the other female cast members get a litte overshadowed. Ana de Armas gets more screen time, front and centre, and on this showing she deserves it.

Answering some of the criticism thrown at this film it should be campy, it should be fun and in many ways it should be silly. The biggest failing of the whole show would be if it was not entertaining. You have to be fair and say throughout the sneaking around, unlikely series of events, the whole was entertaining.

After checking the cast, spelling and so forth, on IMDB I did happen to glance at the ‘marks’ given to Knives Out and overall it seems to have been an average film for most people which I think is fair. It is breaking no barriers and no moulds but it is a good strong effort in the murder mystery column. What I did notice was a preponderance of 1 out 10 marks which turned out to be from people, and this is genuine, did not like seeing immigrants in a positive role and alt-right and possibly Nazi characters as possibly ‘dicks’.

This digs at the alt-right do not bother me but if they were highlighting some wishy-washy liberal namby-bamby as long as it was in the context of the story likewise I could not care either. It is a film. Fiction. No one will care in a month’s time. It is all disposable. Some people should definitely learn to expand and be easier going in what the perceive around them. Hey-ho.

All of the acting, as you would expect, is up at a high-level with Noah Segan gurning it up and making his gormless trooper as stand out as possible.

It was all good fun.

The story rips along and good pace and keeps you guessing most of the time, I got it wrong as to the perpetrator a few times and only when Chris Evans returned midway through did it bog down slightly with seemingly shoe-horned in car-chase trying to bring in some action to the story. I did not feel it was needed but then again I am not a film director or writer.

The cinematography and overall look and feel of the film, particularly the house setting all worked and fitted into the tale perfectly.

All in all Knives Out is exactly what it is meant to be.

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Fireworks

Not a Masterpiece.

(Edit) 21/06/2020

Hopefully after Austen Powers came out in 1997, the same year as Hana Bi, Beat Takeshi realised the clunkiness of exposition. If you want to make a deep film on the desperation of guilt, loyalty to love ones and responsibility it does pay not to have supporting characters in full-on exposition but your lead character/actor being paid by the word. Kitano hardly says any dialogue and occasionally nods or looks at people during long stretches, this conveys nothing. In all honesty, I could do that.

Meanwhile Nishi’s devastated colleague, Horibe, thoughtfully explains in some completely natural dialogue what has happened in between his shooting and the current scene, again in full detail, to his best friend and loyal workmate? Then we have the Yakuza explaining that they are the Yakuza and ‘this is what we do’ to themselves in a meeting. That boat just does not float for me.

A lot of the acting looks stagey and stilted and the casual violence and thuggery of the police will not connect with the audience. In fact Mr.Nishi is a psychotic thug who doesn’t speak to his wife and his answer to everything appears to be some extreme violence, in any normal world he definitely would have been incarcerated by now.

The local Yakuza are comically bad and not in the slightest threatening as simple moves or sleights of hand foil them every time or they send one man to get a debtor who has foiled more than one of the ‘enforcers’ multiple times. Then when Nishi comes back to the car on his own, carrying the enforcer's pistol, they let him get in. The whole film is neither thrilling or logical.

The comic aspect appears to be scrapyard storyline shoehorned in so Tetsu Watanabe can gurn it up in a less than subtle comic turn. It also included a confusing, badly edited, unresolved conflict for this character with the ‘dweeby scared’ man, which confused me.

The film plods along implausible for some time until the finale with Mr.Nishi’s former colleagues ‘come for him’ but he begs a few last moments with his ‘suspiciously not in her final weeks’ wife, who incidentally hardly speaks either it must be riotous in their home. Here we get to see what is apparently a demented child running around and around in a circle with a kite that will not fly and then a kite the Nishi breaks.

The final panning shot accompanied by specific sounds is supposedly profound or sad but just made me think Nishi was even more of cock than he was portrayed throughout the film.

The plus points of the film are some of the beautiful Japanese vistas but the minus points are many. The music appears to be from 1970s US crime shows and does not seem to fit what is playing out in front of your eyes, the acting is strange and mainly poor, the editing is almost random and disjointed and everything seems to say, cheap or made quickly.

Many people say this is a masterpiece, which astonishes me, I like Japanese films and there much better made, better acted, thoughtful and interesting films from that nation out there than this.

Masterpiece is being flung around about a current video game. I’ve seen that from beginning to end, it is not, it is full of plot holes and poorly written, so is Hana Bi I’m sorry to say.

The emperor is altogether naked.

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Tokyo Tribe

Time to break out the gold teeth, guns and girls....sigh.

(Edit) 03/06/2020

Tokyo Tribe is a veritable explosion of colour, action and high-tempo rap and hip-hop music (I think, I am too old to know for sure). Now it would be nice to say it is great to see the Japanese spin on this type of music but there did not seem to be to me it was every US trope you see and so I was expecting gun-play, gold teeth and chains, gang-war, murder, women as sex-objects wearing little clothes and yup they were all there. Okay one of the main characters who could ‘look after herself’ was an attractive Japanese actor but when the leaping about kicking people started we got a fair few shots of her white knickers and in particular her crutch that I felt more than uncomfortable about.

There was a girl gang the Gira Gira Girls so there, except they were all dressed like dominatrix or sex-fetish dolls. I am fully aware that my take on the film and even lifestyle will cause spontaneous combustion in some readers but I have to be honest and of course I can’t say looking a very attractive Japanese ladies in bikinis does not fill me with revulsion but I do find it tiresome that said ladies are mainly there to dish out sex, blow-jobs or just drap over some fairly repulsive men.

I know it’s the ‘image’ of hip-hop etc, and this paints me as a Social Justice Warrior lefty libtard but if I am that then like the film I have just watched I am being true to my nature. Director Sono certainly does not let this phase and just ploughs through.

The ending of the film has been described as fun and upbeat and to an extent it is but unlike One Cut of the Dead what precedes it means it is hollow and pure fantasy. This is the basis of the film fantasy so perhaps I should take a deep breath.

Some of ‘beats laid down’ are good or merely okay and parts of the story as it bops along is funny or interesting but I cannot help feeling that in 2014 the director, Sono and Manga comic-creator Santa Inoue and could have made a mark, say something different instead of just following the path that I, a totally unhip old fart from the UK, was expecting it go.

After this film turning up as being highly recommended on various platforms I was disappointed. Clearly I am in no way the target audience and I suspect it will work very well with them, but nevertheless I did not expect to be thinking ‘really’ throughout the running time.

This was an attempt to make an all-action modern style West Side Story and in one way it succeeds but in another it fails. The audience for this will always be niche something that even haters of West Side Story cannot really claim.

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The Peanut Butter Falcon

I like ornithology but I don't like peanut butter, what did I think of this film....

(Edit) 20/05/2020

The Peanut Butter Falcon show off its Georgia locations to beautiful artistic effect and just for this one fact the film should be watched. No harm is done by Shia LeBeouf and Zack Gottsagen’s non romantised and charismatic partnership during the run time. LeBeouf quite often a figure of fun in the press and amongst cinema goers once again comes up with the acting chops that is obvious he has. In less able hands this could easily have been mawkish and over-sentimental but Tyler is spikey, dishonest and hard to breakdown.

For the purposes of the story he has to breakdown but I found this change to be skilfully handled and gradually done to point that you do notice but the increments are judged just about right.

Throw in the rather lovely Dakota Johnson and you have a good trio to pull through the story. Well supported by baddies John Hawkes, in a role he is so good at, and Yelawolf, who looks the part, and drop in Thomas Haden Church with a small dash of veteran Bruce Dern and you have very strong and capable cast.

All that could really spoil the film is the story and overall it’s a strong and fun tale. There is a nice lack of sentimentality for most of the run, Downs Syndrome actor Zack Gottsagen makes sure that his Down Syndrome character is shown warts and all and he is a fully rounded character and the whole film is better for it. Once again in lesser hands this could have been bad – so bad. Luckily for us it wasn’t.

To drive the story to where we are going the writers have stretched credibility to snapping point and this is my biggest bugbear after the credits rolled. Just dialling back on the twee and happy ending and you have a great modern tale of the opposites helping each other, learning lessons and becoming better people due to this. The final wrestling scenes and very end section whilst not snapping that stretch for me it was just about the snap. The most frustrating part was with just some judicious editing of the writing, a rethink of the conclusion and the film could have been a modern road-trip classic.

Nevertheless the fantastic cinematography and impressive all round performances negate almost any minuses I could give this film. What a treat to see Mick Foley and Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts near the end, Roberts in particular has not had a great later life and was impressive as the slobbish, mean spirited Sam in his cameo.

As package The Peanut Butter Falcon is fine, fun, enjoyable yarn, it certainly is not without flaws which I feel could easily have been ironed during the early stages of making the film but who knows what the first vision was like before this came to our screens? It is easy to criticise with no prior knowledge and when all is considered you get a fun, uplifting story of love, redemption and backwater wrestling and Shia LeBeouf tearing it up again.

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Blinded by the Light

Problems with the boss...both of them.

(Edit) 17/05/2020

In all honesty Blinded by the Light feels very much like a movie where the makers have gone the ‘stock plotline’ shelf and picked out the box labelled ‘rebellious teenager fights parents and expectations to follow their own path'.

There is nothing in the bare bones of the film you have not seen before. The clash, the seeming end of the main characters dreams, the uplifting ending where everyone changes their point of view overnight (despite being entrenched for the majority of the running time) and the conclusion the works for every main character with smiles and laughs all around.

Blinded by the Light keeps its head about the bland because it approaches this from a different viewpoint. The main characters are British-Pakistanis living in Britain where the National Front would hold marches in Southall and Luton, purely coincidence would say the spiv-like overlords of these ‘organisations’. This is the strong point of the story. It is not the first British-Asian film made but it certainly is one of a small number if we are being honest. Something I have no experience of and no real idea about so having these stories told is interesting and for me enlightening.

Having said this skin-colour and place of family origin in the end always seem to be over-ridden by human nature, the more I see different cultures explored in the movies the more I see that we are basically all alike. My Irish-born mother has more in common with Javed’s Pakistan-born mother than she didn’t. This is why more view-points more stories must and should be explored. Always.

The acting is uniformly good with lead Viveik Kalra as Javid and his best friend Roops, Aaron Phagura, having good on-screen chemistry and making the story fun, pleasant and engaging.

Stand-out is Kulvinder Ghir as Javed’s father playing the all-important patriarch Malik, Javed’s dad. A role that no doubt started off in ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ to become a full-fleshed out less comedic character. Incidentally Goodness Gracious Me is giving a beautiful full-on ‘nod’ near the end of the film. Alongside his role and diametrically opposite is Nell Williams as Javed’s middle-class ‘right-on’ green warrior Eliza, who even in my sheltered life in the 80s I recognised. She hit the nail on the head. Hayley Atwell as the sage-like figure is the plot driving force but it is to her credit that she makes this 'pat' role believable.

More confusing to this old western white man’s eyes is the homage to the great Bollywood films made for a market that do not always have regularly access to movies, so romance, violence, intrigue, singing and dancing, all fired into the same story. In story about Luton I was not sure if the sudden dancing and singing really fitted properly.

The whole story was clipping along at a fair pace, I seemed to have the hang of it, when suddenly we got some over-the-top dancing and skipping around – including some nice wiggy action from Rob Brydon, not quite sure why or what he was doing in the film but it did not detract.

To my mind it seemed as if the makers were testing the waters with a more Bollywood inspired style-story but just not enough for it to be full-on and so for me just enough to be confusing.

Blinded by the Light is light frothy take on what in reality was probably a tough, fraught time in a young man’s life and the UK as a whole. For me this was the biggest weakness, it was neither one thing or the other and did not have the courage of its convictions.

This sounds like I did not enjoy Blinded by the Light but this is far from the truth. Frothy, fun and engaging there is much more to enjoy about the film than not. Engaging, well-acted, characters in a film well-paced with slice of ‘nostalgia’ for people like me who were in their twenties in the 1980s, it is a fun romp, even if there is more of a feeling of split-personality about the story-telling.

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The Gunfighter

When Bad Men Grew Moustaches, and Worse Ones Couldn't

(Edit) 28/04/2020

A western from the 50s but certainly following in the footsteps of other westerns from that era. Much more of a character study of a man trying to gain some redemption we see a Gregory Peck sans moustache, apparently against the wishes of the studio head, spending a great deal of movie trying to forget his past and move onto a different, brighter, settled future. The trouble is when you lived a tough, unforgiving past trying to shake that off is difficult. The Shootist with John Wayne followed the same path and is more or less the same story.

Here we see a stark monochrome film with an adult theme which compared to some of the output of 1950s western films was clearly setting the future up for a more dirty, unshaven, morally ambiguous future for westerns on the silver screen. The mood is downbeat throughout and threaded through with a feeling of impending doom catching up with the participants, the path they took in life was always leading here and as they get older it gets closer and closer.

Peck is impressive as the world-weary gunfighter whose legend is a huge boulder chained to him that he drags from town to town in the old west and he is well supported by the Millard Mitchell as his former ‘running mate’ Mark Stret the marshal. Both men want to leave their past behind but Stret has managed and Ringo wants to. The way his life choices is further outlined to him and audience when a cheerful rancher, pops into the bar, has one drink, briefly outlines his life and pops out again is odd and perhaps a tad heavy-handed but the point is reinforced for sure. Karl Malden rounds out the triumvirate of men from the old days who is pleased to see Jimmy, hankers for nostalgic old days but really sees the commercial opportunities in a gunslinger far outweighing any ‘trouble’. He is redeemed as a character by being basically decent.

The female side of cast is mainly supplied by Helen Westcott as the estranged wife of Jimmy, Peggy, who I found as a character a bit hard to believe she hung out and married hell-raising gunslinger Jimmy Ringo, of the main actors she seems more of her era, more actorly and dare I say a bit ‘hammy’ but not enough to detract. Jean Parker and the more worldly and thereby more realistic Molly, Ringo’s old partner Bucky’s wife, gives the other female support as the non-romantic interest who ultimately intervenes to the extent that Jimmy stays longer than he should and she is very good in a limited role.

As with stories and films of this era if Peck is the, admittedly anti-hero, of this film the makers need the real black-hat. This role is filled by the whip-thin interesting looking Skip Homeier who plays his role as the spoiled and unlikeable Hunt Bromley with great skill. In lesser hands it could have been a sneering moustache-twirling pantomime baddy but with Homeier and his callow, youthful, ‘he hasn’t started shaving yet’ looks he fits the role perfectly and on the right side of the line of melodramatic. An interesting actor he mainly played youthful villans after coming out of his child-acting career before retiring in the 70s. He certainly had that look and clearly played to his strength.

Oddly enough for a film of his era there is no score, particularly in the more dramatic moments, I for one liked this but it is a strange thing when you notice it. Equally as impressive for me was the lack of gunplay during the running, for a gunslinger western this is impressive and the writers and director have clearly tried to make the story about the man and not his deeds.

In line with the noir style in Hollywood the film has no happy ending and no resolution, it starts with Ringo riding into the scene and ends with Ringo going out.

All in all, for a 1950s gunslinger western The Gunfighter is intelligently and well-made and acted and does ask some questions rather than just try to elicit boos and cheers.

Good work stands up whenever it was made, this much we should know by watching The Gunfighter

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Brightburn

Not Bright, Got Burned a Bit

(Edit) 22/04/2020

With Nolan and to a lesser extent Znyder making superheroes gritting, realistic, dark, this path was always going to lead to a film like Brightburn. The premise is interesting but not necessarily as new and exciting as it is made out to be with Will Smith starrer Hancock coming to mind and of course M. Night Shyamalan’s trio of weirdness too, alongside Chronicle and that’s the obvious comparisons.

Like Shyamalan’s superhero reinventing this film has a nasty streak, a meanness to it that has no redeeming feature. It seems to me to be unpleasant for unpleasantness' sake. Unlike Superman who saves random strangers out of the blue, Brightburn is the opposite but graphically and for no reason other than not getting his own way.

Herein lies the problem for me and perhaps other viewers. He’s truly horrible which in itself is no problem but horrible in a nasty pointless way. The anti-superhero here appears to have no motivation for his acts, particularly in the closing credits and is plan horrible. Being apparently indestructible and having many superpowers he, very much like heroes who wear ‘script-armour’ cannot be defeated and can do as he likes. So the whole story is pinned on you worrying about the fate of those around him – a clue for you is in real life you would stand no chance – and knowing that this spoilt brat has powers than cannot be defended against.

Whilst building up to the final acts you start to realise that the whole movie becomes pointless, you know who is going to come out on top even though there appears to be no point or reason for the cruelty on display. So, in the end, it is hard to care what happens.

If deconstruction of the superhero story is what was aimed for here I’m not sure the James Gunn’s brothers achieved what they wanted. The darkness is too dark, the horror is too horrible and really the film has no sense of humour and no reason for the events unfolding. Which, frankly, in this type of film you need

The cinematography is annoyingly dark and murky in places, with scenes taking place at night and seemingly filmed at night without lighting.

Overall Brightburn is competently made film with the kernel of an interesting idea at its centre but the makers fumbled it, filling it with grubby unpleasantness that could have done with a bit of a light touch at some time. Even some of the worst horror-films still recognise the need for a light touch.

Brightburn is an idea that needs exploring but perhaps not in this style.

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