Film Reviews by RD

Welcome to RD's film reviews page. RD has written 71 reviews and rated 82 films.

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The Tenant

It looks like art, but something's missing

(Edit) 21/11/2021

This film charts the descent of a quiet, reasonable intelligent man into severe paranoia, and the title role is played and portrayed well if disturbingly. The paranoia is brought on by the actions and attitudes of the other tenants in the apartment block, and this is where the film appears to lose out on detail.

The other tenants and the landlord are odd, yes, but not really portrayed fully enough and most of the scenes showing their behaviour are tantalisingly short which tends to give an emptiness to the plot. Maybe the book goes into fuller detail, I don't know, but the film does appear to show the descent into paranioa from a very one-sided view.

So half-marks for a very odd film.

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Goodbye, Dragon Inn

very, very slow and extremely dull

(Edit) 13/09/2021

The synopsis looks extremely interesting, and was the reason for putting it on my rental list.

The film itself is an extremely weird kettle of fish, and although we are both used to slow burning films and can stick with a film that eventually builds in interest, we were forced to bale out of this one shortly after what was surely the longest urination scene in cinema history, where nothing happened apart from three guys standing at a urinal. The previous ten minutes or so (difficult to judge as it felt more like months) contained even less interest and action.

An improvement on this film would be to buy a tin of Dulux paint, brush a small panel with one coat and stare at it until it is dry.

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Fracture

Good story, bad script

(Edit) 27/08/2021

This is quite an ingenious story, and could be the heart of a great film, however the dreadful script and lame editing make it a very dull affair.

There are poor visual clues to aid the story for the viewer. Any great thriller must have enough clues to keep the viewer informed. The dialogue is very shallow, uninvolving and often unintelligible. There is no development of characters, and conversation is trite and childish. The relationship between the detective and his female boss is one dimensional and so embarrassing.

It's a good example of how a great story can be ruined by a third rate screenplay and juvenile directing.

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Stanley: Man of Variety

Innovative but baffling

(Edit) 10/05/2021

Stanley is a caretaker-prisoner in a psychiatric prison. We see him in his cell pushing tokens into his VHS player and watching old comedy acts. Without spoiling the plot too much, he goes through a crisis and is visited by Max Wall (Mr.Spall plays all the parts in this film) who presses him to write a letter.

More scenes of day to day drudgery follow and are interrupted by Mr. Spall as classic comedy characters, one at a time who engage with Stanley in often furious and over-acted conversations. Most were quite baffling in what they were saying. This is repeated until the end of the film, and although we stuck it to the end, we were definitely in need of a drink to break the monotony.

Individual acting was good, Mr Spall had obviously studied the vocal presentations of the characters he portrayed and made a good stab at them even though he is not by nature an impressionist. Sound design of the film was excellent and very imaginative. It was well shot and the visual effects were carefully crafted to fit in, however the baffling dialogue and sparse nature of the plot/storyline left an anaemic and over-long film.

Towards the end we are treated to several scenes of Stanley coming out of his flat, and throwing tennis balls down the corridor whilst shouting. In other scenes he throws his pills into a chamber pot. What this is about is a mystery and typifies the experience of the film.

Avoid the film unless you're feeling very experimental and avante-garde.

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Joan of Arc

Tedium

(Edit) 06/04/2021

It's quite an achievement to maintain the tedium of this film over the full length, and it is a very slow and tedious film.

For example we have the first twenty minutes set in the sand dunes somewhere, with various characters arriving and talking with each other, interrupted only by a fairly monotonous song that goes on for about five minutes accompanied by the camera and Joan staring at each other from different angles. It's a relief when the song finishes. Then we are treated to Joan, on a horse, surrounded by about a hundred cavalry who perform geometric trotting patterns around her for some considerable time. The aerial shots of the troops weaving around each other are attractive, but it reminds one of a cross between The Horse of the Year Show and the Royal Tournament. Again, this scene goes on and on for far too long, and I started to nod off at this point.

The film gains ground with the trial scene in Amien Cathedral, showing the superb architecture to it's best with some great photography, however the trial is long and drawn out with spurious medieval arguments that baffled this modern brain.

The acting is stilted and wooden throughout the film, and a storyline never really develops. Scenes just seem to be strung together.

A great sadness is that the core of the film, which is the sin that Joan was accused of and sentenced for, seemed to be absent. I got the impression it was heresy, but what she did or said to be accused of this didn't seem to feature in the film. I would have thought this was important enough to benefit from more than hints.

A novel approach to the prisons was to use what look like 20th century concrete pillboxes left over from WW2.

Well I do feel like I ran a marathon, as I watched the film right until the un-climactic ending, although I did nod off a couple of times in the middle which is understandable given the appalling tedium of this film.

Avoid!

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Priceless

Sparkling French drama

(Edit) 26/03/2021

Beautifully shot in great locations with acting to match. The pace of this film is just right, and the result is a delightful and enjoyable film. Audrey Tatou is as attractive as ever in a range of outrageous expensive clothes.

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At First Sight

Ham and cheese in large helpings

(Edit) 21/03/2021

Oh dear, how can they make a film with such a clever inside story into such a cheesy mess?

It doesn't start well, Amy is talking to Virgil at the bus stop, Virgil is doing a very good Stevie Wonder impersonation with rolling head, toothy smile and looking very much like a blind person to the audience. However after some minutes of talking Amy suddenly gasps and says "Oh you're blind!" in a moment of complete shock at something the audience already knew right from the start. We're ahead of you Amy.

Amy is a divorced senior partner of a New York Architect's business, only one problem - she looks about sixteen (and acts like it) complete with spindly teenager legs. There's an ever-widening credibility gap in this film already.

The central part of the plot is Virgil, blind from birth, and makes a stab at showing the problems of suddenly gaining sight along with the stress and enormous problems this can bring. This is an intelligent and touching plot, however it's immersed in a storyline with dialogue that is so dumbed-down and shallow it is swamped in a very cheesy and trite film. Each scene is so artificial and gooey, and the acting is hammy, superficial, trivial and is really annoying throughout.

Not a great film, far from it.

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The Good Shepherd

Dull, badly produced and baffling

(Edit) 23/02/2021

The essence of espionage, which is what this film is about, is the constant effort in keeping information from others. This should really be between the characters of the film, and not between the film and the viewers. There are many, many short scenes that leave the viewer wondering what on earth was that about, following on to subsequent scenes that just don't seem to connect to the previous one.

In many ways this is a fragmented film, confounded by the lack of dialogue or emotion from the leading character played by Matt Damon. Maybe this is how the real person was, but if you're making a film you have to get the viewer involved in understanding the leading character and this implies more information is needed in the script. Otherwise he just floats almost silently through the film.

There's a huge amount of "temporal whiplash" in the film, with scenes rapidly alternating between the 1940s and the 1960s, with a couple of them being unannounced by the onscreen graphics which led to a fair bit of confusion. It looked like the film was deliberately trying to be obtuse and keep important plot information from the viewer, this is not a new trick in films but is very tiresome if overdone, like this film is.

There are also mutterings in the dialogue that are incomprehensible. We went backwards and forwards over several phrases several times and could still not work out the words. One phrase sounded like "A tremble two stun" no matter how many times we heard it.

This could have been a good film if made well, but it turned out to be very superficial, uninvolving and in the end a waste of a couple of hours.

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Vacuuming Completely Nude

Technically awful

(Edit) 27/01/2021

The title gives you false hopes, maybe of a surreal sophisticated film with plenty of imagination. The reality is so much more of a shock because of this perhaps.

The first impressions are poor, as the film quality is dire with a blurred, very grainy image that carries on throughout the film, sort of like poor quality VHS and 8mm home movies mixed together. The lighting is bad as well, in fact very amateur, as well as the mono soundtrack.

The film itself never seems to get beyond a lot of shouting and a silly road rage style of driving, both good acting skills displayed by Mr Spall, but the constant onslaught of this does lead to viewer fatigue, especially in the absence of anything developing plotwise.

We stayed with it until nearly halfway through the film to see if it was going anywhere, but there was no great development in the plot and the home video style of film along with the shouting led to us giving up.

It's like paradise when the film stops!

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Little Dorrit

Lavish and star studded but dialogue is technically flawed

(Edit) 08/12/2020

This is a great double adaptation of the book, well acted by so many excellent actors such as Alec Guinness, Derek Jacobi and Max Wall. Miriam Margolyes is quite breathtaking as the effervescent Flora. The sets and the lighting are not only good but really do capture the essence and mood of the story.

Alas, the soundtrack is fatally flawed! Not even a small imbalance nor a subjective issue, but a great gaping monumental mistake in the mixing.

This film has the dialogue stem at a level about 10dB lower than either the music or effects tracks, with the effect that the music or ambience often drowns out the dialogue. To hear the dialogue, you will have to turn the volume up quite a lot to try to make out what they are saying, and when the music or a sound effect comes in you will be deafened!

(The final mix session of a film soundtrack is called the printmastering session, and the three previously mixed tracks for Sound Effects, Music and Dialogue (known individually as "stems") are brought together in a relatively simple session to make sure all is balanced perfectly. Traditionally, Dialogue is the priority track, which is why the lead mixer handles the dialogue mixing, it tells the story.)

The dialogue has been recorded on the production set, ie not overdubbed in a studio afterwards. Close up shots give quite wonderfully clear dialogue, but as the actor turns away or is more distant, the dialogue often becomes muffled and indistinct. Both Amy and Arthur are prone to bouts of soft whispering which become incoherent also. The opening scene with Arthur conversing in an Inn is a good example of the whispering problem.

So even without the -10dB dialogue mixing fault, the soundtrack has other problems, which is a really bad shame as the script contains so much of Dickens's classic mastery of descriptive language.

Not all is lost however, this film can be enjoyed with skilfull use of the volume control and really hard concentration, coupled with some attempts at lip-reading.

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Catherine the Great

Catherine the not so great

(Edit) 27/11/2020

Let's start with the good parts, and many aspects of this film are so good they are indeed worthy of Oscar nominations. The cinematography is superb, with atmospheric outdoor scenes, and sumptuous indoor settings of such incredible grandeur, lit and photographed perfectly and with stunning costumes to add to the splendour of the Russian court of Catherine the Great. Effects are gory and lifelike but never overdone, and the sound is rich, clear and well mixed. Music is beautiful and mixed well in surround.

The storyline concentrates on the on-off romance between Catherine and Potemkin, maybe a little too much as there isn't much else to the film. The characters flip between silly spats and gooey sentiment with a lot of exotic bonking inbetween. The dialogue is exceptionally naff, and sounds like two 20th century schoolkids battling with their first love affair behind the bikesheds.

The dialogue is certainly the worst part of the film, for example when Catherine berates her useless son Paul, she looks at him and in homage to Dad's Army says with a straight face "You stupid boy". Guffaws emanated from our sofa at this. Then when Potemkin boards the royal barge and runs up the steps shouting "let's get this show on the road" you know the script is seriously quality-challenged.

Catherine is at this time the ruler of all Russia, possibly the most powerful ruler in the world, but Dame Helen is showing all the gravitas of an irate pub landlady at closing time. Lots of effing and other oaths which do sound odd and seem out of place which spoil the film even further. Surprisingly this is not one of her great roles, as she is obviously struggling to show her enormous acting capabilities with such a poor script. Potemkin shows a thin portrayal of a rising then fading military star in fits and starts as each part of the script allows, but never really develops any depth of character.

It all goes to show how so much of a film can be great but if the script and dialogue is badly mis-matched then the whole thing flops. And this film does flop.

We struggled through episodes one and two hoping for some improvements, then episode three filled out the storyline a little more, but I'm afraid we nodded off a few times in episode four and greeted the closing titles with a feeling of relief.

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Cold Blood Legacy

Bad in many ways

(Edit) 27/11/2020

So much of this is utter trash.

The story is very, very simple, a hitman is stalked by the daughter of a target and some cops try and join in. The storyline doesn't get any more details to improve it, and the whole film as so badly made it warrants a place in film schools for a study in poor film making.

Unintelligible dialogue, odd edit cuts, broken story and bad acting make this truly awful.

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Anna

Not as bad as expected

(Edit) 26/10/2020

I was surprised to find this had got into my rental list, it sounds trivial from the description and the reviews support that. Maybe it was the lure of Luc Besson that put it into my list.

It's trite and very superficial, with plenty of very silly action sequences that exude blood and bullets and great choreography if nothing else. This is the danger of tarting up death and violence to be portrayed as nothing deeper than a dance sequence.

The plot is quite well strung together, I had no problems with the regular time shifting, "3 years earlier" shortly followed by "2 years later" and so on as it all seemed to make sense. Acting is very poor but hey, with all the action and the cute models, who's interested? Filming and sound is excellent and the music track is good also.

All in all a film that ends up not as bad as you'd expect, and if it's a cold day and it's raining outside, it's good enough to fill the time until the weather clears.

Continuity alert: in the all-action escape scene from the KGB headquarters, watch out for the star's stockings that turn into tights then back again to stockings. The magic of cinema.

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Joker

Slow and pointless

(Edit) 19/10/2020

Technically the film is very good with excellent cinematography and a stunning 7.1 soundtrack with all actors give fine performances. This could be why it was nominated for the Oscars, but the whole film seems to be so one-dimensional and painfully slow in many places that it never really gets going at all. This is possibly because the storyline is so very simple and the plot is paper thin. It's just never at all that interesting, and so many scenes are long and drawn out when nothing actually happens. I only just avoided the temptation to fast-forward through the film at several places.

It's not a terrible film, just slow and pointless. There's a scene of extreme violence and blood spattering, possibly put in to impress the young section of the audience, but it has no integration in the storyline, it just happens.

Still, if films like this earn enough box-office dollars to finance other, good films, I'm not one to complain.

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'Round Midnight

Dreary but some good bits of music

(Edit) 11/09/2020

This meanders from start to the finish, often with hinted parts of the storyline giving an empty feeling to the film and using musicians who give a very wooden approach to acting. Some of the music scenes are good, although Dexter Gordon's saxophone level could have been lowered to fit the balance of the rest of the band as it did seem a bit too loud. We stuck it to the end but were glad it was over.

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