Film Reviews by PV

Welcome to PV's film reviews page. PV has written 686 reviews and rated 1514 films.

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Westworld: Series 2

Overlong, tricksy, postmodern, mind-game-sci-fi, generally weak series 2 with some good bits

(Edit) 25/08/2019

The problem with this is the same as affected the dire LOST TV series - it eventually got so philosophical and ponderous, it slithered up its own fundament and disappeared in a puff of indifference. There's no getting away from it - these 10 episodes can be excruciatingly padded and stretched out and, frankly, boring. Clock-watching stuff, esp as some parts are 50 minutes and some up to and hour and 15 minutes!

I was also getting increasingly annoyed at the 'woke' diversity casting - same with all movies these days, the heroes just have to be women or 'people of colour'. And yet there is NO colourblind approach when casting red indians or Japanses samurai - I didn't notice a single white ginger bloke amongst the monocultural one-skin-toneness idealised ethnic communities. Such hypocrisy. AND a real issue when there are 3 young photofit-attractive women 'of colour' who look almost identical! The same used to happen in Hollywood movies when they cast 3 white blonde actresses who looked alike. ANY producer should know that characters must LOOK different in a visual medium and sound different too. Far too much ONE NOTE stuff going on here, with 2D 'representative' characters.

Anyone who's read Jospeh Campbell's Hero with 1000 Faces know a hero much be male or act in a male way. These women heroines are basically men, they act as men (and there are NO female snipers at all in the British army of M15/6. Not one. 97% soldiers male too).

The plot is nonsense of course - reminds me of a Quatermass movie that ended at Stone Henge (maybe early 70s). All very postmodern and silly, like an expensive Dr Who (though nowhere near as awful and pc too).

Watchable though, for the wonderful scenery (Ohio and California) which reminds me of the truly great old Western movies.

But watch the original movie: WESTWORLD (1973) to see how you do not need CGI or constant extreme and gruesome violence to make a truly great film. You need 1) a great script, which tells a simple story well (not with multiple confusing flashbacks and tricksy plots as here); 2) a great script; 3) a great script. The rest is detail.

I could easily rewrite this as a 4 part series, but it pads out to 10 parts - the most interesting are with the red indians and the samurai in Japan (absurdly led by a woman - more woke #metoo nonsense). The costumes and sets are wonderful, I have to say, and the Ghost Nation's facepaint!

Anthony Hopkins is always worth watching - but he must have done this for the big fat cheque, I think - he'd know the script had 'jumped the shark'. Time to put this series out of its misery.

2.5 stars rounded up. Please no series 3 if it's more of the same!

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Trolls Holiday

Only a 20 minute EXTRA, not a movie at all, and mediocre

(Edit) 18/08/2019

This is just a little extra feature, just 20 minutes long, no a movie - I was expecting a sequel to the excellent TROLLS movie.

It's all phoned in, really - lots of colour and noise and well-known songs, but I found it boring. Small kids with no attention spans will probably love it.

I gave the TROLLS movie 4 stars; I give his just 2. Not great.

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Westworld: Series 1

Classy, but tricksy + drawn-out existential android drama set in Wild West with brilliant music

(Edit) 19/08/2019

I seriously enjoyed this series. The early 70s movie is great too - written and directed by the late Michael Crichton, all about a theme park gone wrong (he used the same plot for his Jurassic Park novel). Crichton was a scientist and always focused on future technology and what it might do. The early 70s movie is great - better than this for a succinct story and with Yul Brynner - and it was the first winner of the special effects Oscar, though the green-screen effects look dated now and the synthy music is dated too. Nothing dates so fast as a vision of the future.

This series is more of an epic - and maybe too drawn out (I am sure 10 episodes could have been made into 6 or 7). It takes the same Wild West setting of the original movie and takes it to the max.

You really do have to suspend your disbelief with this, which I usually did. Clever complex plotting too.

The actors are superb, and many Brits amongst them. Welsh actor Sir Anthony Hopkins phones it in and steals every scene he is in, of course. He must be almost 80 here.

But I loved it. Some plot holes here and there, and very violent, with just too much existential pondering which reminds me of LOST, the series I abandoned half-way through the first series, thank goodness!

The music is great, esp the self-playing piano (watch the short doc on the final DVD about that). Great the way they took modern songs, by Radiohead (Fake Plastic Trees, No Surprises and another); Black Hole Sun by Sound Garden; Back to Black by Amy Winehouse; The Cure's A Forest - all played on a Wild West pub piano with that slightly out of tune feel. So clever - real attention to detail.

I now want to rewatch the early 70s movie and rent series 2 of this. US drama series like this are just SO much better than the dross drama on UK TV, esp the BBC - which are all aimed at getting older female viewers, so are soaps really. This is REAL drama. Enjoy.

4 stars. If not overlong and drawn out, then 5.

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Manchester by the Sea

Slow, overlong, boring, trite, unoriginal mediocre movie which should not have won a single Oscar

(Edit) 10/08/2019

I yawned through this movie. Not just because of the length. Not just because it keeps playing with flashbacks in a vain attempt to keep the audience's attention. Not just because it is all so awfully old-fashioned and trite (think On Golden Pond or Ordinary People).

No, this movie felt so long coz it is mediocre in all respects. The script is obvious and derivative - yet won Best original screenplay Oscar (!!!); Casey Affleck's a good actor but here he isn't at all, just predictable, and I am stunned he won Best Actor Oscar for this.

I can only assume this is the sort of movie stupid people think is deep, meaningful and profound.

It isn't. It's trite, obvious, derivative and the opposite of entertainment. The sort of social realism one sees all the time in US Indie films which think this sort of thing makes them intelligent and deep. It doesn't.

I am sure Americans who tend to enjoy their psychobabble therapy pity parties will enjoy the family melodrama here. But it is all so utterly forgettable and meaningLESS. Maybe the Irish Catholic contingent nabbed it the Oscars eh? I can offer no other explanation. Bad films winning awards today because of ethnic-loyalty voting too, I suppose. This is just as awful as them. Looking at you,. Spike Lee and Black Panther.

I want to give it one star. Because BOY did it feel long and bore me. But it's competently made and acted and the rest - though the obvious classical music jars. I suppose Americans who adore Marlon Brando misery mumbling love movies like this. They are free to watch them. For me, it's over 2 hours of my life I'm never getting back.

But hey, show it to stupid people to make them feel intelligent, if you want. Me, I'd rather pay folding money never to see a minute of it again!

1.5 stars rounded up.

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Trolls

Hugely entertaining Cinderella-style animation which plunders 60 years of pop music!

(Edit) 12/08/2019

I watched this solely to see how music had been used, and did not expect to enjoy the animation or story. But I did. And here is why:

I LOVED the way this story does not sweep death or bad things under the carpet (like so many pc children's books these days) - a wonderful jungle sequence in the first quarter, with the usual man-eating plants etc, had me laughing wt the dog eat dog jokes. WONDERFUL animation too - calculated by a corporate team, yes, but highly imaginative.

BUT the reason why this film works is NOT the animation - as always, it is the script. That is genuinely funny, arch and has some innuendo for adults too. This film is no way just for kids!

The character arcs work and are strong.

And the music is superb because it's hand-picked from the pop archive - from Sound of Silence by Paul Simon to I Feel Love by Donna Summer and even Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz. A GREAT new song by Max Martin in Can't Stop The Feeling which was deservedly nominated for an Oscar. True Colours used well - 80s song sung by Cyndi Lauper but written by 2 blokes. The final song, however, at the very end of the credits is DREADFUL - how on earth did that get in there? To appeal to rap fans and urban communities maybe? Hmmm.

BTW watch the credits as there is an ending of the story half way through!

IThe things I HATED: 1) the way every single Disney or animation movie these days has to have a female hero - and I do mean every single one. To make her look more 'strong woman' the male characters around her are shown to be weak, cowardly, stupid. To have this in every singlke movie is now a massive sexist cliche. Do people really want to do down boys of the next generation in entertainment? Sad if you do. That does not make you strong but weak and sexist actually. HAVING SAID THAT this movie is not to bad on that as the characters are so strong.

And 2) This film is spoilt by the central pc psychobabbly very American premise that personal happiness (with endless hugs) is the most important thing in the world and being happy all the time must be everyone;s goal. WHAT ROT! Happiness is part of life, as is sadness, disappointment, anger etc. All in the round. I do wonder what message this is giving children.

BUT nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised at ow much I enjoyed this. The movie is obviously designed to be ultra-colourful and happy throughout BUT it is well-written and with great music, and I loved it. If you're feeling a bit down, put this on and you annot fail to smile watching this mad technicolour troll-fest!

4 stars. Would be 5 were it not for the 2 points made above.

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Sully

A rather tawdy slice of American nationalism - an old-fashioned B-movie

(Edit) 13/08/2019

Really, this movie spreads it thin - it takes a tiny flimsy story and drags it out to 90 minutes by, so I am led to believe, inventing the jeopardy or a grilling of the pilot in an inquiry. So far, so film industry. This sort of 'inventing a baddie' for the goodie main character to overcome is standard stuff - films are full of fake news.

What I disliked so much about this movie - directed by uber-patriot Clint Eastwood - is that this talented pilot's efforts somehow are part of the great American story, about the USA being the 'best country in the world' etc. What rot! Offensive stupid daft rot too.

Far better planes in peril movies out there.

This is basically a B-movie - and really, a half hour documentary could have told this story better and more accurately.

But the plane scenes are good and CGI not intrusive, and it all hangs together on a B-movie 'the good main character wins through in the end' framework. But utterly forgettable. This is real film-making by numbers, a join-the-dots project, which most of the world has no interest in, though no doubt in the USA people waved flags at the premier and chanted USA like Homer Simpson. Yawn.

And the ending made me cringe - it's not Schindler's List, for goodness sake! It's a plane which had an emergency landing and was lucky!

Oh and the music is awful - JUST DREADFUL. The end theme tune is like some dirge from a 1970s disaster movie, which this sort of resembles too, though it's far more boring. Watch AIRPLANE! instead...

1.5 stars rounded up.

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Nina

Flawed Biopic of a Great Artist

(Edit) 07/08/2019

I am a fan of Nina Simone and loved the recent documentary about her - that was better than this and includes maybe the most interesting part of her lifestory, namely when she went to live in Africa in the early 70s with romantic ideas of 'going home', then returned to Europe in rags, living in a bedsit, before 2 white guy managers rescued her, make her take medication, booked her gigs etc. Not a young black man at all. That seems pure fantasy invented to create an all black major role cast. Shame. Racist even. As indeed Nina was in the early 70s, singing 'Kill White Peopl' in one concert.

This movie focuses weigh to much on race and civil rights, as that is the obsession of our age. A better biopic would have shown her early life more. NO mention here she was born Eunice Waymon, for example. No mention that she wrote hardly any of her songs - as one can see if one watches till the end of the end credits. Ironically, white men wrote most of her famous tunes, just like a young white Jewish boy wrote Strange Fruit.

My advice: watch the superior documentary before this. It's called WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE? (2015). Better still, watch some of her concert clips on an online video platform.

But it's not TOO bad. A shame they left out the incident in France a couple of years before her death when she started shooting at kids who were stealing apples from the garden with her revolver. Yes, she was like that. Not much mention of her daughter either or husband (a black cop). If they'd included some mention of her 1980s gigs at Ronnie Scott's in London, that would have been great too.

This is maybe half true and the rest total fiction BUT it hangs together OK, and the music is great. The main actress looks too young and fair-skinned though. Nina is meant to be in her mid 60s in the 1990s when this movie is mostly set (she was born 1933 died 2003).

It's all obsessively focused on racial politics (which our age demands) when it actually should have been focused on Nin's music and life first and foremost.

3 stars. Just.

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Deutschland 86

Highly watchable German drama set in Europe and Africa

(Edit) 07/08/2019

This is the sequel to the lower budget Deutschland 83 which I actually preferred. That was set in Europe; this takes place a lot in South Africa and other African countries, which is very timely, but maybe less interesting for me.

However, this is still classy drama and better than most UK drama, for sure.

As usual, some neat twists and turns, confusion about how to trust and action scenes. Too much focus on romance this time though, which borders on treating the main actor as a sex object - feminists used to complain about when female actors were treated in the same way! Such double standards really.

4 stars

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Silence

Overlong but fascinating historical drama about persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan

(Edit) 29/07/2019

I enjoyed this movie for the simple reason that I knew NOTHING of this period of history in Japan, other than the Dutch (richest trading nation on earth in 17th C) were the only people allowed to trade in Japan in certain areas such as Nagasaki. I had never heard about Christian missionaries from places such as Portugal and the many who were persecuted and killed.

This is very timely too - Christians are being persecuted throughout Asia at the moment, and indeed killed. Not much reported though.

It is long - too long. And could have been pulled in under 2 hours, I am sure, without losing much.

The story is one of belief and betrayal, and fascinating.

Based on a 1966 Japanese novel - which is probably better than the film, as so often with epics with multi-dimensional stories and themes and a myriad of characters.

I suppose INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS from 1958 would be a good partner piece, this time about the persecution of Christians in China in the 1930s. That was filmed in Snowdonia, Wales, apparently and because not many Chinese lived in Britain in the 1950s, the kids in it were the posh offspring of diplomats etc!

An oddity for Scorsese maybe, and if you want hardcore action, then don;'t even bother. Glad I stayed with it though, after the slow start - this movie only really begins after at least half an hour, maybe 45 minutes.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Nocturnal Animals

All style, no substance story-within-a story melodrama partly set in the yucky modern art world

(Edit) 27/07/2019

Well this is a Tom Ford film, and seeing as he comes from the massively pretentious modern art world, it is no surprise to see one part of the movie take place there.

This is a story-within-a-story -no spoiler here as the blurb says the key character received a novel.

It's all quaintly old-fashioned ultimately, especially towards the end. Feels like I had to sit through an awful lot to get there. BUT the police chief steals the show (Bobby Andes character).

Ultimately, I disliked the main female character and the other spoilt and self-absorbed art-world types - seen it all before, so no desire to see the dreadful pretentious modern conceptual art again.

2 stars. If it had been JUST the story about the fictional novel in the film, probably 4 stars.

However, as this is all based on an actual novel, one cannot entirely blame the director. Only for the dedicated.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Dead in a Week: Or Your Money Back

Very old-fashioned Brit-flick based on an OLD overused idea

(Edit) 27/07/2019

I see from the credits that this is based on an 'original idea' by the director/writer and producer. Well, now. In no way, shape or form is the idea of someone who hires an assassin to kill him, then changes his mind and is in a fix, is 'original'. I have seen and heard half a dozen such stories - from Bulworth with Warren Beatty to various others. And as for failed attempted at suicide - well A MAN CALLED OVE does that as does the Jim Broadbent film whose name I cannot remember.

Anyway, this comedy is passable, if very predictable, though oddly feels too long despite an 80 minute run time, The final act flags badly - and the relationship story is weak and not very credible. Cartoon character comedy really.

The old assassin and his wife are massive stereotypes - no-one lives like that any more, not even 70 year olds!

But it's fun in parts, as a cartoony drama - so if you don;t expect too much, it passes the time.

And some class acting talent here. So 3 stars - just - as some decent music here.

It says Stephen Fry produced it too (THE SF? Who knows?)

Watch A MAN CALLED OVE, LEAVING LAS VEGAS or KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS for real class.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Jurassic Games

Highly enjoyable, reality TV satire - with dinosaurs

(Edit) 22/07/2019

I really enjoyed this movie. It's WAY better than the (for me) tedious and derivative Hunger Games, even though the low-ish budget does not stretch to Jurassic Park levels.

It is not original and neither are any of these movies about extreme reality TV. Loads of previous films and books, from Death Race 2000 to Logan's Run to the novel Rasmus and others like Dead Famous.

But I thoroughly enjoyed it - the film has pace and is fun, not pretentious, with lots of action and dramatic scenes. There is satire on reality TV and celebrity aplenty too, which I always like.

A great fun popcorn movie.

4 stars

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Toni Erdmann

Massively overlong and unfunny German 'comedy' which the critics loved but many who watch it hate

(Edit) 20/07/2019

This film is 2 and a half hours! It could easily have an hour cut from it, especially from the second half. This movie is so flabby that if it were human it'd be a 45 stone mattress man having a sponge bath in a bed he hasn't got out of for 20 years. It seems half-improvised too, with completely extraneous, irrelevant and pointless scenes aplenty.

Occasional humour BUT all in that 'practical joker' way which I, for one, find totally unfunny.

Odd how critics love films like this, especially at Cannes - maybe that sort of comedy appeals in mainland Europe. In Britain we're spoilt for choice with comedy, and it just does not translate into British English well.

1.5 stars rounded up

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Deutschland '83: Series 1

Brilliant German TV drama set in 1983 Cold War - just SUPERB. Better than ANY UK drama.

(Edit) 13/07/2019

I had this series on my rental list for a year before lifting it to the top and committing to watch this 83 series and the more recent 86 one after. I am SO GLAD I did - it is BRILLIANT. Way better than ANY UK drama and anything I have seen set in the 80s (Ashes to Ashes was a pantomime).

Superb period details, the Cold War paranoia, and full of thrills and twists, slips and slides of spying, and nail-biting tension in the slithering plots, with strong characters and performances (the main character is perfectly cast; also the general's son is the actor who played Viktor in the brilliant German TV WWII series GENERATION WAR - a great actor too). Whenever an episode finished I was desperate to watch the next part. I have not felt that way about a UK TV drama for years with the possible exception of Peaky Blinders. This is up there with Breaking Bad for quality.

Just superb. Proper grown-up intelligent drama - unlike what you see on the BBC then.

Five stars.

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Paterson

The Definition of Slow, Boring, Pretentious, Pointless Film-making.

(Edit) 11/07/2019

Imagine if I had written a screenplay about a bus driver who writes DREADFUL poems with a kooky ditzy girlfriend in a story where basically NOTHING HAPPENS except the man walking his dog and going to the pub for a pint every evening, oh and randomly meets some characters planted into the film to bulk it out and make it longer. Would it ever be made? No chance.

SO why was this drivel made? Baffles me. I thought the French had a monopoly on long, tedious, yawn-inducing, self-indulgent, pointless films. I stand corrected.

I suppose how much you like this film depends on how much you like this director Jim Jarmusch BUT for me, his movies (and those of Wes Andersen) are deeply self-indulgent, pretentious, pointless, self-consciously 'quirky, 'post modern', 'Noo Yoik hipster', affected, and, in a word, boring. Oh and the poetry is just TERRIBLE - as was the drivel written by William Carlos Williams, plums and all. Maybe if I were a Californian hipster I'd like this. But I am not and I don't. Two hours of my life I'm never getting back.

On the plus side, if you suffer from insomnia, just watch this and feel yourself drift happily away to the land of nod.

1 star. For the dog.

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