Film Reviews by CJ

Welcome to CJ's film reviews page. CJ has written 26 reviews and rated 27 films.

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The Holy Mountain

Unexpectedly more to it than meets the eye

(Edit) 06/09/2020

To watch this unique film just for the visual spectacle is certainly a satisfying experience by itself. However to gain an understanding into what this film is trying to portray you really need to watch it a second time with the director commentary switched on. It reveals that the film is very closely linked to the directors take on tarot cards and how that in turn is linked to the physical and spiritual life of human beings. So not only will your eyes be opened when watching, but you mind also. The commentary also gives a nice insight into the personality of the director himself, who seems like a very interesting person. Then when you've watched with the commentary, if you have the blu-ray special feature about the tarot watch that too.

Much of the film is actually symbolic and so what you see is almost like a series of revelations or visions rather than a conventional movie.

The visual style is impressive but again given the directors insight, the finished film does appear chaotic at times but that seems to be due to the difficulty the director had while making such a controversial movie.

It was worth watching if only for learning more about this talented and interesting director and gaining some insight into tarot cards.

It is such a shame the director didn't have the chance to make his version of the sci-fi film Dune! I think it would have been amazing.

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Elephant

It might have been made 17 years ago but still seems fresh and relevant

(Edit) 03/08/2020

"ELEPHANT" covers the hours before and during a mass shooting at an American high school. Watching it, is like waiting for a time bomb explode. However, it is important to note that this isn't an action film so there are no heroic star-actors to come to the students help, and not being a horror film either there are no drawn out scenes of survival in extreme situations for your entertainment. What you see is played much like a fly on the wall re-enactment, but you may like myself still see many familiar film elements that take it a away from being too dreary and documentary like.

The film begins as what is probably an average high school day, and for a while even has some hint of the excellent 1970s set nostalgic lighthearted movie "Dazed and Confused". The long tours around the school that follow may be too slow paced for some but it gives you a chance to see how large the school is and the students that attend it, and determine which decade the film is set in which I did find a little difficult to place to begin with. The restricted-vision camera style used reminded me of the World War 2 concentration camp movie "Son of Saul". You are also given time to explore the lives of several specific students of the school. When the film progresses to reveal the student gunmen, the tone does shift to one of impending doom. It's a tone shift quite like that of the Michael Haneke film "Funny Games" which with a dark humour features two "bad" male teens who are terrorising an innocent family seemingly for the fun of it. "Funny Games" although ficticious is actually quite an intelligent look into watching violent films for entertainment and you can save that family from harm by optionally choosing to stop watching when things get too bad for them. However with ELEPHANT because it is almost a true life re-enactment of a school shooting, although you may want to stop watching the film at the point you undoubtedly know people will start to die (you will know when) that is almost like not facing this real life situation. As the tragic deaths unfold you are left at the abrupt ending feeling like you wanted to know a little more about the lives of the students you've seen and hoping that steps could be taken to stop these events happening again.

What was the actual cause of this tragic event is not fully pinpointed in the film. There did seem that there were just as many potential contributing factors in the characters lives that were not revealed in the film as those that were actually included. At least if a few people who watch this film ponder or discuss what happened and why, it I think that is a good enough reason for the film to be watched.

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Jojo Rabbit

Comedy, and much more than expected, in this unique telling of familiar wartime events

(Edit) 27/07/2020

The trailer for this film looked quirky and funny and certainly the majority of this World War Two, with a German perspective, set film is comedic. From the trailer I was expecting the film to be more in the style of a bad taste but humorous Mel Brooks style satire, and it does have a trace of that. It does also have some similarities to the tragic/ comedic World War 2 Italian film "Life Is Good". JoJo Rabbit does offer comedy, and more, in its own original way. It follows Jo-jo the, 10 year old, average German boy enthusiastic to become a member of the Hitler youth and become a good German. I won't spoil the content of the film by including too much detail but essentially we see daily life in wartime Germany from Jo-Jo's young perspective but with frequent appearances of Hitler himself as his imaginary-friend/father-figure giving advice on how a good German should be. The imaginary Hilter may seem a bit weird at first, but I think that Hitler is quite a good indication of how the young Jo-Jo tries to make sense of Hitlers often morally mixed messages of making Germany great for its people. The main characters at first might seem either stereotypical or one dimensional, but you get hints that there is a lot more going on with certain of the German characters than first meets the eye and how they fit in with the Hitler rule.

The story that unfolds may initially also seem quite familiar in covering the Jewish persecution message in a fairly standard way, albeit still mixed with the quirky comedy. However, I have to say that this makes what happens later in the film so very unexpectedly and emotionally hard hitting. The change in tone does really make the reality of the war starkly clear to you for the remainder of the film. The ending of the film is quite remarkable too.

It is clear that this is an anti-war, anti-prejudice satire. Cleverly the film reveals to you that just as the German prejudice may have been that all Jews were evil there may be a residual prejudice that all Germans were just a bad as Hitler. Moreover the film very much leads us to look at the importance of love, understanding, and humanity, where-ever and whoever you are. It's something that was needed then, and is now. Ultimately, every human is free to choose to do good or bad. Some people may be deceived into a way of thinking that is wrong or are not in a position where they can do all the good they need or want to. But, as the film reminds us, the important thing is for people to always do what they can to make the world good.

Unfortunately there are still many humans in the world who need to take a close look at their lives and make the decision to devote themselves to goodness for humanity.

This film does grow on you and I personally consider it to be quite a special film in that it's one of the few that has had the emotional impact in certain scenes to make me cry real tears for the characters and really think about what I had just watched.

I'm just glad they managed to get the comedic balance of the film just about right, as looking at the deleted scenes on the blu-ray it could so easily have fallen into the Austin Powers style of comedy which I think would have diminished the power that the film does have.

I also think this film gets better the more you watch it, and somehow the Hitler character although initially a large part of the film to the viewer actually diminishes when you concentrate on the deeper story of love and compassion, as happens to Jo-Jo in the film too. The same parts towards the end of the film still bring tears to my eyes too. And what happens in the very last minutes of the film isn't so far fetched, Jo-Jo could have grown up to become a pop star of the early 1970s..!

Don't dismiss this film like some strange poor taste comedy, take the time to watch it and then think about what you've seen.

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Dreamcatcher

A good to average Stephen King film

(Edit) 10/07/2020

This sci-fi invasion film has many familiar Stephen King elements and although it's not a great film it does has some interesting and unique scenes. The main characters find themselves intertwined in matters of dangerous extraterrestrial creatures visiting Earth.

There are some tense moments with the alien creatures but because a lot of the film includes a comedic tone the gruesome horror isn't as hard hitting as a film like ALIEN or THE THING. This is still quite a dark film but has more intentional laughs than extreme scares.

The two people that are initially found in the woods provide MUCH humour, and the director finds new ways to give use the horror staples of fumbling in a critical situation, well done...

Also Morgan Freeman was actually able to provide some laughs too. Special effects are reasonable for the time, overall the film isn't too bad.

It also make you think about characters from other Stephen King films who have powers like 'shining' and how they got their powers...

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Cats

unnecessary partially computer generated cats

(Edit) 27/06/2020

This film initially looked quite innovative but soon turned into something less amazing than it could have been, and that's really down to the computerized cats themselves I feel. To be honest I think that you could have achieved much better results by simply dressing the cast in updated fur cat suits than trying to turn them into cats with computers. Or alternatively give all the cast animated cat faces to go with the cat bodies. As it stands the characters in the main just look odd with the semi-human heads, and the scale of them looks odd too. If they were cats in a human world, given the size of the beds, it may have been a good idea to see the scale of the computerized cats if you had even seen just one glimpse of a full size person with them.

Additionally the film itself is really one for those who appreciate the dance, as you can expect it's non-stop dancing, and can get bit tedious to the average viewer.

I still think you can't beat the original 1980s version with the cat costumes and makeup, but maybe this version may appeal to the modern youngster. To me it's a bit like comparing the original 1970s charlie and the chocolate factory and it's modern version, it may not be as slick as the remake but it's more enjoyable.

So this CATS update wasn't as great as it could have been really.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Emmanuelle in Soho

It's very tame, and nothing special.

(Edit) 12/01/2020

I was expecting a bit more of this 80's softcore British "sex" film. But as was the case with the sexual content of all such 1980s sex films this was sadly all you were likely to get.

It's really just one step up from the sex comedies like the "confessions of a..." series. A little more nudity but still nothing explicit at all. The story is nothing special either, the 1970s sex comedies are much more entertaining...

Not really even worth renting for 80s nostalgia or fashions.

Hot Gossip and the Top of the Pops dancers of the same eras were doing much more sexy things, albeit without nudity. Would have much preferred seeing a compilation DVD of their dance routines, if only one actually existed!!

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The Tyrant King: Series

Nice series

(Edit) 12/01/2020

Kind of liked this short series.

The story wasn't great, but it was nice to see London and the fashions of the late 1960s.

Mike Hodges is a very good director.

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Grange Hill: Series 5

Maybe even better than when first seen as child...!

(Edit) 18/01/2019

Okay, this nostalgia trip to Grange Hill series 5 was going to be hit or miss, but I could not pass up renting it. However, after watching the first 6 episodes I was surprised to find it time very well spent. I first saw this series as a child of the same age as these first year pupils (in the same year it was broadcast too) and the series was always fun. Seeing it again now as an adult it is still very funny to watch but I can now fully appreciate the other side to the series, that which covered the 'bad side' of being at school. These problems were actually being presented and dealt with in a more serious manner than I recall, and the adult actors handle these situations very well.

I know this was a children's teatime TV series for entertainment, but seeing it now it has also almost become like a historical fly on the wall documentary of early 80s High School. So far they have also brought up things like lack of school books and equipment, and bullying. The actors playing the pupils are great, the teachers are great, Tucker Jenkins and some of the other first series characters are still around too!

It may not be exactly as High School was in 1982 but it is very close and it will make you remember similar, and perhaps half forgotten, things that happened when you were a schoolchild of the same age. Some of which will make you cringe, but just like 'real' school the good bits hopefully make up for the cringe-worthy parts.

I hope all the remaining series make it to dvd too. What with this, and Top of The pops 1980s on BBC4, TV couldn't get more nostalgic for a child of the 1980s!

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Suffer, Little Children

Interesting amateur horror

(Edit) 09/02/2018

Okay the first thing to say is this is a very amateur attempt at a horror film simply because it was apparently made as a school project. It, is, quite a bloody one and if the picture quality was a bit better it probably would have rated higher. It's a simple tale of demonic possession at an otherwise run of the mill 1980s children's home. It is laughably amateurish in places. It cannot be compared in any way to the low budget first films of Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson. It comes across as something a group of children would have sent to 'Why Don't You!" to show what can be done with those new fangled early home video cameras. Having said that, it does have a certain charm and vision and some interesting children's 'school TV' bleak synth background music (which actually obscures the dialog in several places). In the last ten minutes of the film things do get quite unusual in an occult mini rave with strobe lights, and then Jesus appears... And yes at that point you may be sitting watching the film in opened mouthed bewilderment at what you are beholding...

The interviews on the dvd are worth watching to give an insight into the background of this film which just happened to be released during the video nasty era.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Practical Magic

Modern day witch relationships...

(Edit) 20/01/2018

It's not a comedy, it isn't a classic family film, it's not a horror, it's not fairy tale fantasy. It's not going to go down as an all time classic, but it's watchable. A simple tale of adult family relationships in the modern world complicated by the fact it's a family of witches...

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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Wonderwall

Very colourful

(Edit) 17/01/2018

A very bright and colourfully filmed movie featuring some great looking swinging 60s ladies. Overall, watchable but not great... It's a bit like an overextended pink floyd style promo video with a 'story'. I was hoping for something a bit more fantastical.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Queen of Versailles

Interesting enough real life character documentary

(Edit) 17/01/2018

A documentary about a rich american family. Typical content, nothing dozens of other documentaries haven't done before really...

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Mrs Henderson Presents

Run of the mill period drama

(Edit) 09/12/2017

What can I say, it's a pretty ho-hum run of the mill modern made historical musical drama on how the London Windmill Theatre came into being. Was hoping it would be bit more like a Ken Russell style musical, given the risque subject matter. But no such luck... Boo...

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Naked as Nature Intended / Secrets of a Windmill Girl

Two mediocre films for the price of one...

(Edit) 09/12/2017

The main feature is 'Secrets of a Windmill Girl'. It's a 60's docu drama look into being a Windmill Girl at the London Windmill Theatre coinciding with when the theatre closed for good. Sadly looking at the content of their musical reviews in the mid 60's it really had become a bit tired compared to its prime in the 30's and 40s. Sadly it does only focus on the 60s era.

The bonus film on this dvd is 'Naked As Nature Intended'. Not an excuse for an entire film to have naked female actresses? Or just an advert to show the healthy naturist lifestyle? Well it's not overly 'adult' in content by todays standards. It's a kind of staged documentary affair of several female friends experiencing a day on the English coast minus bathing costumes. Yes, we would all love to be free of clothes but there are quite a few reasons why outdoor naturism has never become popular in England. The main one being the weather. So this remains a historical fantasy where the experience of being free of clothes in the sun can only ever be a dream. I think I would quite like to see a non-sleazy modern remake of this film, but the 60s version is a bit forgettable...

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Amazing visuals, lacklustre story

(Edit) 03/12/2017

This film has a quite amazing intro showing a peaceful alien planet and the inhabitants way of life. However as the film progressed it became very much a run of the mill affair concentrating on the two main characters weak, love relationship. Although the leads lead characters were okay, its's a great shame that rather than focusing on human characters it could have focused more on an alien story and an adventure of the like we have never ever seen (but not like Avatar please...).

So overall, this film is a bit of a disappointment because we've seen virtually all the elements here in other films. Many sci-fi console games tell a better story. Yes the visual style is stunningly bright and colourful but was lacking something emotionally engaging. It could have been much cooler and sexier. Come on, the Japanese were creating better animated stories in the 1980s than this! Why not give us 'Dirty Pair', of which this film reminded me for an instant, or 'Bubblegum Crisis'.

That said, Besson is one of the few directors that can capture alien and sci-fi imagery in a way that reminds me of the early 1980s 2000ad weekly comics I loved as a child. If only someone could make some film versions of the 2000ad stories besides Judge Dredd (or just some of the better Dredd stories). I would love to see an authentic ABC Warriors/ ro-busters movie (though not if they do a transformers style reboot).

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
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