Film Reviews by JM

Welcome to JM's film reviews page. JM has written 14 reviews and rated 134 films.

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Heathers

Black Comedy without the humour

(Edit) 06/12/2020

This is one of the few movies I have failed to watch to the end. I expected some wit, something to pull me along, but the humour was either non-existent or left me cold, and in the first half hour the plot was very obvious but slow to develop.

Maybe it would have devloped something of interest later, but I doubt it. I gave up just when the boredom increased too far and the gratuitous bad language became too saturated. I'm not surprised this turned out to be a turkey on its original release.

I had hoped it might turn out to be like Mean Girls, a cult coming of age high school movie which (for me) turned out to be far more interesting that at first it seemed. With Heathers, it was quite the opposite.

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Emma

A new entrant but a poor one

(Edit) 29/11/2020

There are many productions of Emma, but I'd say this was far from the best. The treatment is trite, the acting shallow. This might be an attempt make a complex story more palatable to a wider audience, and that is a worthy aim, but if I hadn't known the story so well, it surely wouldn't have made much sense.

The central character is played by an actress who subscribes to the modern mumbling school of acting - her enuciation is dreadful and about 25% of her speech is lost. Johnny Flynn is quite ill equipped to take on the rather sober and restrained Mr Knightley, looking more of a rakish rockstar than the character needed to anchor Emma's flighty nature. There is a notable absence of chemistry between the two - which might be forgiveable if intended to put one "off the scent" - if it weren't for the fact that in the denoument there is no sense of tension, climax or emotional release.

On the positive side, the music is excellent as is the photography. Bill Nighy makes a passable Mr Woodhouse (not irrascible enough for me) and Mia Goth is a good Harriet Smith. Most actors at least have the benefit of decent diction, whilst Anya Taylor-Joy's Emma (as mentioned) lets the side down badly with her gabbling too fast. The properties, landscape and costumes are all beautiful and well photographed.

There are many version of Emma, but this will not become a classic. People will pick their own "best" version, but the 2009 one with Romolo Garai made for the BBC (available from cinema Paradiso) would take some beating for a benchmark.

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You Were Never Really Here

Pain but no gain

(Edit) 15/05/2019

In the first few minutes there are around 7 or 8 almost disconnected changes of scene in bite sized pieces. This immediately alerted me to what was to come - one of those films in which one is left to join the dots. There is very little dialogue, and what there is cannot be heard clearly. Apart from one actor, they all seem to have been trained at the Academy of Mumbling.

After an hour, I was hoping that this story with all its disparate scenes, apparenly unconnected gratuitously violent murders and characters without context and with whom we could not identify, might all come together in some rational denouement. As time went on, it became clear that this was not going to happen and indeed by the end, I was absolutely none the wiser as the what on earth it was all about.

This wouldn't have been quite so bad if the road followed hadn't been peppered with the most ghastly, vulgar and awful scenes I've watched in a film recently. How this film won any awards or nominations is quite a mystery: it is easily the worst film I've managed to watch until the end (though there have been a few even worse ones where I have given up half way!). My wife did give up, BTW, about an hour in - she made the right decision there.

If you want a film with a good mystery, a clever story which produces a final resolution or explanation, this isn't it. I cannot understand why anyone would want to make this film or be able to raise the capital necessary for it - it is complete junk.

It is certainly a case of all pain without gain.

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Lady Bird

Low key coming of age movie

(Edit) 02/03/2019

It was "OK" but no more. Categorised here as in the "comedy" genre, it really wasn't particularly funny - hardly even in an ironic or dark way. Just the very occasional touch of low key humour, or passages that looked as though they might have been intended that way. The trouble was, that some of the "humour" was actually just a sad portrait of a family in some disarray, which isn't essentially something to laugh about. Mother and daughter at war, Dad trying to be the peace maker.

What this film is, really, is simply a coming of age movie. A young lady flexing her will power and moving on to the next stage of early adulthood. Its good, but does not, as others have said, grip you. It has a reasonable ending, a bit like this sentence................

The film is in the same vein as Brooklyn, but that has much more presence, substance and emotional power. I was quite surprised to find that Brooklyn is the earlier film - two years before Lady Bird - but Brooklyn seems a more mature and developed offerring.

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Personal Shopper

Mumble mumble

(Edit) 30/08/2018

I won't say too much about the plot, which other reviewers have covered well.

I found Kirsten Stewart a competent enough actress but with that hoarse mumbling voice could hardly understand more that 15% of what little dialogue she delivered. For the first 20 minutes really nothing much happens, and then the plot does start to become quite intriguing for a while, hampered by the mumbling. However, that much of it is in text messages is a real boon! - and one can tell a little of what she is saying from the context and replies from other actors. How did she become so popular? I don't know about her other films as I've seen none of them, but in this there are a couple good near naked sequences with no body double, so the men amongst us might at least find something of interest.

Otherwise, it is ultimately an unsatisfying film and as the plot unwinds, one does have a fateful feeling that it is going absolutely nowhere. And the feeling is correct - there is no reward, no payoff for the pain endured.

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A Quiet Passion

Flat and dull

(Edit) 24/05/2018

It started off quite well, with the feisty children and then some witty repartee reminiscent of Jane Austen. But around about the first hour, it started to become quite tedious and really too dull, too understated. Maybe I was in the wrong mood, but after a break to attend to something else, I simply couldn't be bothered to watch any more of it. I don't whether I missed some gem in the second hour, but there was nothing to recommend in the first - not even any inspiring readings of her poetry.

So this becomes only the third hired DVD which I haven't watched right the way through. I just felt there were other things I could do in life that evening. I believe the story as depicted is accurate, no doubt with some added conjecture, and eventually I caught up with rest of Emily Dickinson's biography on Wikipedia which was quicker and more interesting!

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Mulholland Drive

Mysterious but memorable

(Edit) 16/04/2017

I'm pleased to learn that this film is being digitally re-processed, and I look forward to seeing it. Like the other reviewers, I was quite baffled as to what the meaning was or what actually happened, but that doesn't prevent watching it years ago having been a memorable experience.

I can understand people's objection: I much prefer stories which have a cut a dried ending, However, this film was so atmospheric that you had to forgive the open nature of the narrative, and it would still be worth watching again.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Under the Skin

Most intriguing film for a long time

(Edit) 23/12/2015

As I write this, I note there are eleven reviews. That's quite a number for a small film, and a scan down the star ratings tell you that it's a film you ieither love or hate. It is strange, it is mysterious, it is haunting. Essential a low budget art-house film and many scenes are surreal and bizarre but for me, the questions about what the heck the plot was about kept coming into my mind for several days afterwards. As did the weird musical score: each time her hunger or pain increased, the music is very effective, and these sections keep coming into my mind. The story isn't clear, but for me the film was by no means one of those one star wonders that you give up watching, and surprisingly, it did keep me riveted.

Reading various websites, there's a whole bunch of opinions concerning what the film is about: don't expect any answers - just enjoy its understated excellence. The storyline is left up to the viewer to solve, so you can make of it what you will, but because the plot isn't ladled on with a large spoon doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable! It's an arthouse film and you should be aware of that before you start otherwise you'll be disappointed. Such films aren't always "in yer face" and do not have straight forward answers. Witness the fact that the Director took ten years to settle on how to make it, and you'll see it wasn't easy.

I'm impressed that Scarlet Johansson had the guts to make this film and collaborated with minor actors and non-actors in doing so. It's also a brave role which she plays absolutely brilliantly, and in passing how many top rate Hollywood actresses would play scenes completely full frontal naked without a body double? And isn't it counter-intuitive that there's been no fuss or puerile interest in that fact? All praise to her for taking it on.

By the way, I believe it is Glasgow, not Edinburgh, though someone will no doubt correct me. I would recommend playing the "extra" on this disc as they do help give some valuable background.

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Don Jon

Zero star rating

(Edit) 14/11/2015

I can't think of any redeeming features of this film. It is one of perhaps only two which I have either ejected half way or skipped through the last 25%. The characters are feral, vulgar slobs and painful to watch, even worse to listen to since the script is littered with f-words in every sentence. This is social un-realism taken as art.

OK, there are other films in which one does not like the characters, but here I can't even get to the first base of empathy. The plot is paper thin and predictable - and, yes, I skipped to the end part just to make sure there was no twist worth waiting for.

The mystery is that two excellent actresses should have lent their names to this trash.

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Blue Jasmine

Comedy?

(Edit) 24/05/2015

Surely this has been wrongly categorized? Comedy - you must be joking:)

Is it directed by Woody Allen's alter ego, perhaps, or a Woody Allen from an alternative universe? Some of the dialogue is clearly Woody, but without the humour, dead pan or otherwise. Sure, it's well acted - or one might say over-acted - but the characters are quite unlikeable, unrealalistic and frankly, I couldn't have cared less about them. I'm tempted to say it was a waste of 90 odd minutes of my life, but perhaps not quite in that class. However, it was bordering on "let's scrap this and find something interesting to watch" territory (which saved it from a one star rating). The plot was OK and ending after quite a deal of hard work was quite inconsequential.

Frankly, don't don't bother, would be my advice.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Too Much Mumbling in Texas

(Edit) 26/04/2015

This film is really hard work because it is next to impossible to understand anything that anyone says. Casey Affleck is particularly poor in this respect and spoils major parts of the film including the very ending which is totally spoiled. One has to guess what is going on for large parts of the film, which is such a shame. There was a great fuss about the BBC's later version of Jamaica Inn with hundreds of viewer complaints - well this takes "unintelligible" to a whole new level.

This is a really good story, but ruined by the poor diction as a result I have to award it two stars and not three.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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How I Live Now

Big role for Saoirse Ronan carried off brilliantly

(Edit) 01/02/2015

I hadn't (thankfully) read the reviews here or the plotline before watching this film. The English Idyll enjoyed by the children with their extremely irritating American cousin is suddenly and shockingly disrupted by the principle event in the film The shock is very effective if you don't know it coming, and I won't spoil it any more than the reviews here have done already. The second section of the film is a re-writing of a John Wyndham-esque post apocalyptic scenario for the modern cinema and is very effective. Saoirse Ronan is on set practical 100% from the beginning to end and carries the film magnificently - it must be one of her best performances.

At it's heart, this is a story of love, endurance and survival against all the odds. That is really all anyone needs to know before watching it.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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The To Do List

Much better than its description suggests

(Edit) 01/02/2015

I put this DVD in my player with some trepidation as the description was hardly edifying and I couldn't remember why I placed it on my "To watch list". No doubt, it had been well reviewed, and that explained why I reserved it. The description makes it sounds as though it could be a dispicable and sordid American trash movie, but in fact it was an enjoyable piece of Saturday night fun. What turns it from trash to enjoyable is entirely down to the light touch and humour, the acting of Aubrey Plaza and the handling of the whole sex issue. The final conclusion is that sex is OK but it's the emotional side which is all important and subverts you with surprising results if you let it. This gives the film an wholesome moral framework within which to work.

I'd never heard of Aubrey Plaza, but I certainly have now! She has a wonderful deadpan delivery and in places seems quite socially inept, but it suits the character and the character suits her. After watching this, I hunted down various Aubrey clips on You-tube and quite enjoyed her comic style and timing.

A surprisinly good teen movie and well above the usual crude outing for this genre.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Beloved

ultimately tedious

(Edit) 02/05/2014

The first hour was fine. I enjoyed the Parisian scenes, the sultry French singing, but after this I thought it began to pall. By 90 minutes I was thinking "how long could they keep rambling on like this?". 100 minutes and I started seriously wondering whether I could really go the distance. I didn't want to give up so I cheated and started playing at double speed and skip reading the subtitles, watching in normal speed every few minutes. The cast tells me it should have been a brilliant film, but it became so tedious and repetitive (especially the music) that it ends up as being one of the worst films I've seen for a while. And that's from someone who loves French cinema.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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