Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


On paper, Hollywoodland was always going to be a big zero. And the mixed reviews I've heard seem to confirm that. Ben Affleck: check. Tale of long-forgotten actor: check. That big-nosed motherfucker from Summer of Sam and (yawn, probably) The Pianist: check. So far, so unappealing. But, for me at least, it worked.

When Affleck is on top of his game, I think he's pretty good as an actor. Come on, now: cast your minds back to before he became a joke, hanging out with that no-talent cunt J-Lo. Back when he didn't take himself too seriously, despite having an Oscar at such a young age (albeit for writing, not acting). He was good, man. He showed promise.

Well, Hollywoodland is a return to form for Ben, at least. And that Pianist dude was good too. And I'm gonna come right out and say it: I actually quite liked the film, too. I thought it was a nice little mystery, one of those "what if...?" type of tales, à la Agatha back in the day. I ain't rushing to watch it again or to add it to my collection, but I say it's not bad. (Put the wife to sleep, though, so I guess that's a negative point.)

Also, at the end, you kind of feel like the whole thing was a bit of a cheat, which ain't great...

Acting: 14
Story: 13
Direction: 13
Enjoyment: 13
Involvement: 13
Total: 66

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Monday, July 23, 2007


Generally I like the films of Pedro Almodóvar, and Volver was no exception. It tells the story of a woman (Penélope Cruz in her native tongue), her husband, her daughter, and her mother, but it expands to include so much more. The husband is soon out of the picture, and it becomes a tale of women and womanhood.

But that is not to say this is a chick flick. Far from it. For although Almodóvar often deals with the female of the species, he is an articulate and compelling film-maker, writing roles for women that are real. Roles that not only are too good for any actress to turn down, but that are also so well written as to provide us men with a true insight into our opposite numbers.

This is a rich and rewarding film, more accessible than much of Almodóvar's work, but none the worse for that. Its weak points can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Despite initially receiving poor reviews among critics just 12 months ago, no doubt doing considerable harm to its box-office potential, Volver is already being reassessed, and the verdict seems to be a resounding thumbs-up, and rightly so. Highly recommended.

Acting: 17
Story: 17
Direction: 17
Enjoyment: 16
Involvement: 16
Total: 83

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Thursday, July 19, 2007


Another French film I remembered from way back when but had never seen, Germinal is a period tale of miners getting screwed over by their employers. When they take the only course of action left to them -- a strike -- things get pretty damn tricky. Believe me, it is actually much better, and more interesting, than it might sound!

All the cast (headed by Gérard Depardieu) do a great job, and the direction is spot on. One of those films that plays like an epic and so you brace yourself for a three-hour session only to find it runs shorter than that and that you could have sat through even more.

Acting: 14
Story: 15
Direction: 15
Enjoyment: 13
Involvement: 15
Total: 72

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine

I know it's a bit late and that Little Miss Sunshine was a talking point, like, months ago, but it's taken me ages to catch up with my backlog of reviews, so I'm only just getting to this now.

What can I say? It was funny. I laughed. Alan Arkin was great, beyond great. The girl was cute and amusing. The angst-ridden teen was relatable for almost anyone who has ever been a teenager.

The ending was funny.

But wasn't it just a bit something and nothing? Wasn't it a bit "so what"? Wasn't it a bit "jeez, really, all this fuss over this tiny film"?

A good film, yes. Diverting and entertaining, yes. Will it leave an impact on me -- or anyone, for that matter? I doubt it. Case in point: I can barely remember it now I come to write this review a few months later...

Acting: 13
Story: 11
Direction: 13
Enjoyment: 13
Involvement: 13
Total: 63

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Manon des Sources (aka Manon of the Spring)

Manon des Sources picks up the story a few years after the end of Jean de Florette, when Jean's daughter Manon has grown into a beautiful young woman in the guise of Emmanuelle Béart. Manon, being the country type her father never was, is keen on taking naked swims in the hills. I don't think it's ever mentioned how old she is or how many years have passed, but knowing the French she's probably about 15, so it's a tad creepy... (in the pic here, she's considerably older).

It is during one of her swims that she is chanced upon by the dim-witted Ugolin, played by Daniel Auteuil, reprising his role from the first movie. He immediately decides to court her, and so begins his path towards inevitable disappointment.

This story line is but one of several flowing neatly through the movie. Another includes the discovery by the villagers of just who Jean and his family are, and that the information had been kept from them by Ugolin and Cesar (Yves Montand) for their own benefit. On the subject of the bad guys, once again we are drawn in by multifaceted characters, and as much as you dislike Ugolin in particular for his past actions, you can't help feeling sorry for the poor sap.

It's perhaps true that a lot of loose ends from both parts of the story are tied up a little too neatly, but I liked the circularity of the whole. I think it's imperative to watch both parts, and to watch them in the right order; I couldn't imagine seeing them any other way.

A great movie. Not quite as great as Part 1, but pretty close.

Acting: 16
Story: 16
Direction: 16
Enjoyment: 17
Involvement: 17
Total: 82

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Jean de Florette

Jean de Florette is one of those films that I'd long been aware of but had somehow never got around to watching. It tells the story of lawyer Jean who inherits a house and a plot of land in the French countryside. He decides to move there with his family to get away from the city life and start afresh, getting back to basics and living off the land and the fruits of his own labour. He has grand plans.

Unbeknown to him, though, a couple of locals have their own plans for the land, and they block up the spring that irrigates his property, rendering his plans all but useless, in the hopes that he will pack up and go home. But Jean is not easily dissuaded from pursuing his dream. The film tells the tale of Jean's continuing efforts and his interactions with the community at large.

The community is mistrusting of the stranger among them: his being a city lawyer is not the worst of it; he's a hunchback, too, and that means bad luck, plain and simple. Of course, there is another whole load of background stuff that some of the characters know about and others don't, but I don't want to reveal too much here.

The acting in this film is first-class. I know Gérard Depardieu has become something of a cliché over the years, but he puts in a tour de force performance as Jean. And the "bad guys", an uncle-and-nephew duo played to perfection by Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil respectively, really make your skin crawl as they become more and more vindictive in their plotting.

I had never imagined how beautiful a film this would be -- one of the best I have seen in a long time. It is a rich and moving piece of work that immediately draws you under its spell. And when it ends, you know you have to rush out and grab a copy of the sequel, Manon des Sources, ASAP.

Acting: 16
Story: 17
Direction: 16
Enjoyment: 17
Involvement: 18
Total: 84

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