This page is in reverse order of seeing the movie. i.e. The most recent are at the top of the page. You have to browse or SEARCH for the movie whose review you want to see. There are duplicates, from different viewings.
Gone Girl Thriller focussing on the disappearance of a wife. Too long, too much sex and blood, not enough tension until nearly the end.
A Touch of Spice Greek language movie about a Greek family displaced from Istanbul (their family’s home for generations) to Greece due to the Cyprus crisis. Centres around a boy growing up.
Magic in the Moonlight Light-hearted rom-com with Colin Firth in the lead role. Witty dialogue, nice music point to Woody Allen, this time transplanted from seventies New York to the South of France in the twenties. Nothing startling, but very pleasant movie than won’t frighten the horses.
Saraband (dir. Ingmar Bergman) Another slow-burn drama from Bergman, with excellent acting, fine music, a small cast, almost no scenery, no cgi, just drama. Though it’s invidious to mention any individual actor, Liv Ullman was particularly strong.
The Remains of the Day On second viewing, I enjoyed this much better, admiring the acting and filming, the leisurely exposition of the theme – pleasures and disappointments, and the magnificent settings. Recommended.
Anna Karenina Entirely misconceived, contrived setting of what should be a thoughtful tragedy. This started out as a grotesque farce, and didn’t improve. The BBC mini-series of 1977 remains the best, and most complete, version of this novel.
The Cruel Sea Excellent tale of the Battle of the Atlantic. Very authentic.
The Shipping News Star-studded, yet disappointing, sometimes harrowing, movie. The filming was excellent, but I couldn’t take all the grief.
Trafic Another Jacques Tati movie which is wildly amusing in places, but, again, not up to the standard of M. Hulot’s Holiday
Fracture Well-plotted murder and trial with a sinister Anthony Hopkins and a cocky Ryan Gosling.
Single White Female Disturbing movie about a creepy room mate. Many plot holes.
Aliens – Special Edition Lovely military hardware and monsters. Great cgi. Idiotic plot. The mayhem went on too long, but some scenes were excellent.
Monuments Men Star-studded, yet disappointing, movie about Nazi art thefts. Rather poor.
Fading Gigolo John Turturro directs and stars as an initially reluctant gigolo, with Woody Allen as his pimp. Gentle comedy.
Deception (also The Best Offer) Excellent movie set in the world of antiques and art. Geoffrey Rush, auctioneer, is fantastic in this part mystery, part romance, part crime caper. It’s the best movie I’ve seen this year (2014).
Very competently made, but frankly tedious movie about AI and World Domination. I was neither shaken nor stirred.
Zero Theorem Wonderful ‘dirty’ future film, borrowing something of Bladerunner and Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s movie is filled with delightful detail, and features talented actors, notably the talented Christoph Waltz, but lacks a strong enough story line or a satisfying ending.
Dangerous Liaisons Much better than I remembered. Glenn Close and John Malkovitch suitably evil, Uma Thurman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves suitably beautiful and innocent.
The Cases of Cate McCall Well-wrought legal drama, very gripping and well-performed.
Das Boot Long, excruciating, authentic (one gathers) saga of a U-boat mission. Well-acted, tightly photographed, tense. In German with good, but incomplete, subtitles.
For a Few Dollars More The classic spaghetti Western with Clint Eastwood. It all looks a little dated and stagey now, but still quite watchable.
Red Rock West Thriller with a Western flavour and a convoluted plot. Nicolas Cage stars. Worth seeing.
Along Came a Spider Thriller based on a kidnapping. A couple of plot twists make it worth watching. Morgan Freeman stars.
Mon Oncle Classic Jacques Tati movie in which he gently ridicules his brother-in-law’s modern house and bourgeois aspirations, enjoys the company of his nephew and screws up production in a plastics factory. In French, but no translation is required, as very little is spoken. Like M. Hulot’s Holiday, but not as funny.
The Book Thief Other than excellent performances from the principal actors – Sophie Melisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson – and very nice photography, art direction and set decoration, I don’t have much good to say about the movie. ‘Death’ was somehow an inappropriate addition to the drama. Everyone spoke English with a German accent, sometimes popping in a ‘Ja’ or a ‘Nein’, though sometimes in crowd scenes you’d hear a bit of German. It sounded silly. There were many inconsistencies.
The Battle of the Sexes I first saw this Peter Sellars film, which is supposedly based on Thurber’s The Catbird Seat, in 1959. At the time, I was disappointed, as it elaborated wildly upon the original story, presented a pastiche of Scotland, and showed Sellars in an unexciting role. However, having seen it again the other day, I was more entertained. Sellar’s elderly Edinburgh clerk was wonderfully understated, and the scenes of Edinburgh as it was when I left school in that city were delightfully nostalgic.
All is Lost Very drawn-out, but extremely realistic movie of shipwreck and endurance, starring Robert Redford, indeed, featuring only Robert Redford, looking elderly but fit. A cautionary tale, not exactly entertainment, unless you are a sadist.
The Grand Budapest Hotel I was kind of expecting a film like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The cast of actors was dazzling, so I anticipated marvellous acting. I got neither. Instead, Wes Anderson delivers a beautiful fantasy set in staggeringly detailed sets (some of them real locations rather than sound stages). The set decoration is detailed and ornate. The framing of each scene is impeccable. The story is a headlong unlikely romp. This is a director’s movie, not an actor’s or writer’s movie. Recommended – you must see it.
Sleeping Beauty I think the date of this Disney animated feature -1959 – tells the tale. The animation is lazy, the accompanying Hollywood heavenly choir is loudly overactive, the story takes nearly twenty minutes to creak into action. A shadow of the quality seen in the earlier Snow White, Bambi and Pinocchio. Actually, subsequent features, like Jungle Book and Robin Hood returned to something like Walt Disney quality.
Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events Didn’t like it as much this time as last. Jim Carrey tends to be a bit of a turn-off for me, and I felt the action crawled a little. On first viewing, the plot kind of held my attention.
Mrs Brown’s Boys – d’Movie Total disaster. The tv programme of the same name has its moments of comic slapstick. This movie is a tedious waste of life. Not clever, not funny, nobody’s laughing. Avoid, even if you think you might like it.
Beaches Again, not my type of movie. Having said that, I found it competently filmed, entertaining, moving in parts, and enjoyed Bette Midler’s singing.
One surprise: CC Bloom – Bette Midler’s character – (age 11) was played by Mayim Bialik – who now plays Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory – a VERY different part!
No Country for Old Men Excellent film-making, but a disappointing ending and dialogue impossible to comprehend without subtitles, unless you have a degree in Mumbled Texan dialect.
Having since read the book, I find that the movie clings close to the plot and much of the dialogue of the book, but ends before the book does. Understandable for dramatic purposes, as the book enters a cerebral phase in which the sheriff contemplates the world, his life and work. However, that rumination rounds off the book in a satisfactory fashion that’s missing from the movie.
Philomena Not my type of movie, really, but I was glued to the screen throughout.
American Hustle Christian Bale is excellent in this, as are the two women and the two male supporting actors. A drawn-out caper with an implausible plot, but worth sitting through for the twist in the tail.
Andrei Rublev Tarkovsky’s medieval epic, I’m afraid, did not speak to me. The separate episodes, the images, the photography, were all excellent, but if there was a coherent story line, I missed it. And it was very long. I was not entranced by his Stalker, but it was much better than this. I think Tarkovsky’s individual scenes are masterly, but the thread of story-telling is lost.
Volver Delightful Almodovar movie which gallops gaily around the subjects of death, incest, child abuse, murder and deception, maintaining a light-hearted atmosphere while delivering great drama and a satisfactory conclusion. Penelope Cruz stars, but the whole cast is excellent, as is the music and photography. In Spanish, with excellent English subtitles.
Sleepless in Seattle Agreeable romcom with more com than rom. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
The Oxford Murders Self-absorbed movie that wraps a philosophical debate inside a murder mystery, and fails to deliver either. Interesting, but not satisfying.
Conspiracy Theory Rather obvious movie. Mel Gibson overacts. The conspiracy ceases to be a theory very soon, and it turns into a chase movie.
CASH (also CA$H) Excellent French movie with Jean Dujardin, Jean Reno, Valeria Golino and many more. Very convoluted Confidence Trick-based plot. Delightful throughout. French and English with English subtitles.
(I append here the other ‘CA$H’ I reviewed)
CA$H Sean Bean (Hollywood) version. A simple bank robbery tale, well filmed, and reasonably entertaining. I won’t go further than that.
The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 A remake of a much better movie. The cast was OK, but the script was strangely lacking and predictable. The Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw version from 1974 was far superior.
Django I can’t usually fault Tarantino, his direction is once again top-class but his reputation for violence is well-earned, and this was just a bit over the top.
Captain Philips Really gripping (almost) true account of a shipjacking incident off Somalia.
Reasonable Doubt Very clever premise, and quite tense in the initial stages, then it becomes sort of meh.
Steel Magnolias Sort of high-class chick-flick, really. Good acting, particularly from a young Julia Roberts and from Olivia Dukakis. But all a bit weepy, really, and, like a classic tragedy, the weepy bit results from the weakness of the doomed character.
Gravity Rather lengthy, great effects, can’t say I was gripped by it, and the bit where the other pilot climbed in and helped in a sort of ‘Use the Force, Luke’ moment… Nope.
The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann, Leo di Caprio version) Very true rendering of the book, greatly superior to the old Robert Redford version. A little over the top, as you’d expect from Baz. I was impressed yet again by Leo’s acting. My first experience of Leo was Titanic, and, frankly, it soured me, but everything I’ve seen him in since (other than the Aviator) I’ve been pleased with.
Never Let Me Go Slow borderline science fiction, beautifully acted and filmed.
Julia’s Eyes Very well-done edge-of-seat thriller. In Spanish with English subtitles. Recommended.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azhkaban One of the better Potters. I was more entertained this time than last.
Batman Begins In my opinion, the best of the Batmans so far. Motivationally speaking, it goes a little crazy towards the end, but the spectacle is consistently good.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps I enjoyed this. Skullduggery on the financial markets, but, frankly, I have a good grasp of the stockmarket having worked in dealing rooms, but much of it either went over my head, or wasn’t real.
Ice Age: Continental Drift Watched about ten minutes of this, mostly the entertaining intro. Then we got to the bit where the mammoths were behaving and talking like an American Mum, Dad and the kids – see any US family sitcom. Sorry. Won’t watch.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sex-heavy, sense-light drama about love and the Czek revolution. Very watchable, lots of good scenes including newsreel of the disorder, but the romantic plot a little stilted in my opinion.
Lights in the Dusk Finnish crime movie. Actually very good, and atmospheric.
Zodiac (2007) Immersive movie/dramadoc about the hunt for the Zodiac killer. Gyllenhall and Downey star.
American Psycho Ugly serial killer movie, redeemed to an extent by casting Christian Bale as the psycho.
Hidden (Caché) Michael Haneke’s mysterious movie about surveillance and guilt. Beautifully made, great photography. Totally spoiled by having no ending. Haneke himself declines to interpret the plot. One is tempted to think they ran out of ideas.
Hush Evil mother-in-law movie.
LOTR 3 Fine enactment of Volume 3 of Tolkien. Would that The Hobbit were as good.
The Silence of the Lambs My umpteenth viewing of this, and it’s still chilling. Recommended.
Conspiracy A movie about the Lincoln assassination, and the execution of some relatively imnnocent conspirators. I can’t find it in IMDB under that title, so I probably got it wrong.
To Kill a Mocking Bird It’s taken me a long time to see this movie. I never knew what the fuss was about, and the book, a school reader in the USA, was new to me, too. I enjoyed it, particularly the court scene. Gregory Peck was a little wooden, I thought, but the children were a treat. A moral tale, of course, with Atticus’ defence of a black worker, and the revelation that the handicapped boy next door was quite the opposite of the monster everyone believed.
The Thin Red Line Mallick’s war film set in Guadalcanal, WWII. Much more action, and suitably tense throughout. Really likeable and hateable characters. The movie was unnecessarily long, and too harrowing to be entertainment, but an excellent movie, nonetheless, with great photography and acting.
Jarhead Everything you didn’t want to know about Army life in the US Marines. Sure, we know that all sorts of beastliness go on; yes, war is long periods of boredom and misery, interspersed with occasional moments of terror; oh dear, your girlfriend might find someone else if you’re away for six months. As an unsavoury documentary, it succeeds. As entertainment, it doesn’t even try.
Horatio Hornblower RN (1951) Gregory Peck as the famous sea captain, an excellent production. The cast includes Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, Stanley Baker, James Robertson Justice as a simple seaman, Christopher Lee as a Spanish naval officer. A little corny but I liked it.
Days of Heaven Beautifully filmed and much more satisfactory in its way than The Tree of Life, yet it was very slow in one way, in that we were treated to sunsets and landscapes and sillhouettes between the dramatic bits; in contrast, the story line often seemed rushed. A treat for its cinematography, and worth seeing just for that.
The Tree of Life I found it hard to rate this “masterpiece” from Terence Mallick. On the one hand, many of the images were excellent, many of the contemplations well thought-out and some of the irony cleverly portrayed. Yet my main complaints were that it was… boring, that many of the vignettes were not played out, that the “creation of life” sequence cleverly avoided any hint of the Evolution word, that the end sequence of everyone walking around the mudflats was inexplicable and that the representation of parenthood was at one and the same time overly disciplinarian and overly affectionate. Frankly, it was self-indulgent stuff. I look forward to seeing an actual drama directed by this chap. It could be quite something. But Tree of Life wasn’t. 3 stars overrates it in the entertainment department, but the cinematography was good.
A Touch of Evil I love Orson Welles. I think he was a genius. I admired his The Trial, and always enjoy his acting, and his rich brown voice. But this movie, though often quoted as a masterwork, was desperately dated and uninspiring.
The Bed Sitting Room A fore-runner of much of British ‘silly’ comedy, It’s set in post-nuked London, a man is turning into a bedsit. It’s a bit like a feature-length Monty Python sketch, but not as good. It’s too complicated. This is the Wikipedia entry. It was always too long, but now it’s also tedious.
The Crying Game IRA murder plots, kidnap, violence, sex and seriously poor singing, yet well performed and filmed.
Mr Brooks A superficially average thriller redeemed by an engaging plot decoration in the form of Kevin Costner’s alter ego, played by William Hurt. Recommended if you like thrillers.
Sleuth 2007 This remake 0f the 1972 original (itself a movie-isation of a stage play) is not successful. Michael Caine plays the part Olivier played in the 1972 version, while Jude Law plays the part Caine played in the 1972 version. It is immensely stylish, with lighting effects and some very uncomfortable interior decoration. The acting is great, but there’s an insincerity about the screenplay, and an uncomfortably abrupt denouement. The same talents could have made a better movie than this.
Untouchable Very enjoyable French movie about a rich man, paralysed in an accident, and his helper, an immigrant from the housing schemes. It is said to be ‘based’ on a real story, but I cannot imagine the real thing would have been so entertaining.
The Bourne Legacy Begins well, otherwise it’d only have had 2 stars, then descends into a fine representative of the CGI smash, bang, wallop, shoot-em-up, inconceivably unlikely garbage that comes out of Hollywood these days. No sign of Jason Bourne, except for a WANTED poster. Contains a completely unecessary sub-plot about body-enhancing virus-vectored treatments. Finishes with an unconvincingly improbable car chase, followed by a totally obvious hook for another episode of the same. G R O A N.
22 Bullets (originally L’Immortel – why change it?) French gangster movie starring Luc Besson. OK. It’s a gangster movie, but beautifully filmed, acted, and plotted. It looked real. What a contrast to the “CGI smash, bang, wallop, shoot-em-up, inconceivably unlikely garbage that comes out of Hollywood these days” (see The Bourne Legacy). Recommended. It’s occasionally on Sky Movies.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn I was VERY impressed with this movie. It appeared to be made using similar technology to Hugo, but what a difference! There is only one scene, near the end, where I think the animation went over the top to the point where it defied the laws of the universe, but otherwise it was immaculate. Good script, good characters, imaginative plot, wonderful set-dressing, and it didn’t lose the feel of the Herge original. Recommended.
Snow White and the Huntsman We were keen to see this, as some of the locations were near us. The fishing village and some of the forest footage were just half a mile from our house. The locations and costumes were excellent. The CGI was impressive, especially the phantom army and the wicked stepmother transformation. Unfortunately, the story was (I think the modern term is…) pants, the screenplay awful, and the acting, mostly as a result of the above, was meh, at best. The dwarves were a bevy of the usual character-acting suspects. Oh dear.
Princess Mononoke Certainly not as good as Howl’s Moving Castle, the only Ghibli I have been able to sit right through. Having just watched two Disney offerings, the animation in this movie is clunky, characterisation very bland, and only interesting for the story. In contrast to the rather mechanical animation, the backgrounds are superb, so that’s a plus point.
Disney’s Winnie the Pooh And in total contrast to Bambi, Disney’s version of the A A Milne classic is a deep disappointment. The one star I have given it is for the animators, who did a jolly good job of animating E H Shepherd’s illustrations, but the corny trans-Atlantic voices and the efforts to spice the stories up are a complete turn-off. I suspect it should never have been attempted. And where did the ground squirrel figure in the English countryside?
Prometheus Waste of talent. Waste of CGI. Rotten story. Awful script. I won’t be waiting with bated breath for the inevitable sequel.
Blood Simple Complex, satisfying tale of crime and retribution, filmed by the Coens in a 40s noir style. It takes a while to pick up pace, but it’s worth the wait, and the actors and direction are excellent.
Batman Begins Surprisingly good, though the unlikely motivation of Liam Neeson’s character became a little irksome. However, it was good to look at, suitably dark, and not at all juvenile, unlike its predecessors.
We also saw another well-thought-of movie – Gambit which was SO bad, we ditched it about 20 minutes in, despite the fact we’d paid LoveFilm good money to see it, on the basis that the cast was promising (Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Tom Courtenay). Avoid.
Bright Young Things An adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Vile Bodies,” ‘ A look into the lives of a young novelist, his would-be lover, and a host of young people who beautified London in the 1930s’. I really wanted to like it, but, hey, I didn’t. It was detestable, to be honest.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Truly excellent, though violent, Sidney Lumet thriller with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei. Simply, a heist goes very wrong, and the subsequent tension is maintained throughout. While I usually abhor flashbacks, the flashbacks in this movie have a real and revelatory purpose. Truly recommended.
Body of Lies Leo di Caprio (white hat) and Russell Crowe (black hat) in a big budget CIA vs CIA vs Al Caida caper in the Middle East. It was OK up until the love interest, then it fell apart under the weight of its unlikely plot.
Shadow Dancer Low budget, grim little tale of a mole in the IRA. Clive Owen stars. Gripping throughout.
Margin Call Absolutely the best movie I’ve seen this year. No guns, no car chases, no sex, yet the tension is palpable throughout this believable drama set in a financial dealing organisation. Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci are in it. Recommended.
John Carter Some nice cgi, but really just kids’ stuff
21 Grams Star-studded cast, hopelessly confused, especially in the first ten minutes. Flashback-mad direction. Hated it.
Battleship US Navy versus the Aliens. Load of tosh, really, but I adored it. The Sub-woofer on our AVamp got a great workout, the CGI was impressive, the plot predictable, most of the tech totally outside the laws of physics, but, hey, you can’t have major fleet actions without making a bit of a compromise.
All About Eve Old b/w movie. Well-wrought story of arrogance versus ambition. I hate it, though, when they show you the end right at the start of the movie. It kind of takes the tension out of it.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula Actually a lot better than I expected, though the end was a bit over the top.
Life is Beautiful Nicely made, but it gave me the creeps.
Men who Stare at Goats Fairly star-studded, but disappointing, movie (except for the goats, whose performance was most realistic). Too little substance and virtually no logic to the tale.
Wait Until Dark Thriller from the late 60s with Audrey Hepburn as a recently blind girl beset by drug dealers. Unlike many movies of that vintage, it still has tension and excellent acting.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (The original one with Maggie Smith) Really excellent, but a little dated these days.
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists Very good indeed in parts, but it kind of palled towards the middle and ended over the top, but not in a nice way. Great Aardman animation throughout.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Expected to hate this, but it turned out to be rather good. Deeper and more affecting than the trailer and publicity would have you anticipate.
Festen Well-regarded Danish movie. But family movies are not really our thing.
Beautiful Boy Slow start. Promising cast. Exciting developments leading to… to nothing, really…
J Edgar I cannot, in all honesty, give it a rating, because I gave up after about 20 minutes of flashback / flashforward incomprehensible brutality and strangled accents.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – hated it. Tear-jerker with child star. Not my bag. I watched it all and wished I hadn’t bothered.
Zatoichi [dir Takeshi Kitano who also stars] Not really a perfect 5-star, but such a headlong romp and pastiche of martial arts interspersed with comedy, and rounded off with a finale that puts Slumdog to shame, unexpected and fresh. The plot? A blind swordsman helps 2 geishas to get revenge. Many die.
Life of Pi Not as fantastic as I’d hoped. The tiger was grrreat, but the movie was too slow at the beginning and end, and sometimes boring . Maybe it’d be against the purpose of the novel, but why didn’t they show both stories in movie form?
The Parallax View (1974) It may have been impressive in 1974, but it is awful now, except for a few very good images. The plot peters out disappointingly.
The Hobbit Points added on for the spectacle, art direction and set decoration. Points deducted for blatant profiteering by taking a relatively small book and making three feature films out of it. Shame on you. (Detailed review follows)
Mother We didn’t watch much of this acclaimed Korean movie. Too worrying at the beginning. It wasn’t a pleasure.
Blood Simple Another Coen noir offering. Excellent in its way, but not quite as entertaining as The Man Who Wasn’t There. Excellent cinematography, and some memorable lines.
Shakespeare in Love We sat with gritted teeth through a rerun of this movie. It’s clever in places, but there is too much love and nudity and not enough Shakespeare, while the plot is lame.
Angela-A (dir Luc Besson) [IMDB’s summary “A beautiful woman helps an inept scam artist get his game together” doesn’t really hack it.] Black and white, beautifully photographed, light-hearted drama set in Paris (French dialogue, English subtitles.). The plot is a bit magic realism.
Don’t Look Now (dir Nicholas Roeg) Weird rendering of a Daphne du Maurier story. I have removed a star for Donald Sutherland’s haircut – or perm – and for his unconvincing running around and silly mistakes, but the movie is beautiful, set in a very atmospheric Venice and quite chilling.
Gorky Park Excellent interpretation of Martin Cruz Smith’s novel. William Hurt plays Renko, Lee Marvin plays the villain. Really enjoyable.
The Illusionist Strange animated movie, featuring Jacques Tati. Appealing, sad, beautifully drawn and animated. Most of it is set in a very recognisable Edinburgh.
Skyfall The best Bond movie since Sean Connery hung up his Walther PPK. We had to see it anyway, because the closing scenes were filmed in Hankley Common, where we walk and play golf several times a week. We saw the sets and the helicopter attack being filmed. It’s a Surrey moor (masquerading as a Scottish moor in the movie)
The Man Who Wasn’t There Coen brothers thriller. A rivetting black and white 40s style thriller, beautifully photographed, tightly scripted, excellently acted. Recommended.
The Red Desert (dir Antonioni) A visual delight, lacking only a coherent story. Monica Vitti goes slightly mad in an Italian industrial landscape. Richard Harris moons around to little effect. There’s a fog at one point. But the VISUAL effect is stunning, Antonioni had whole streets and groves of trees spray-painted to make the atmosphere correct.
Wall Street – The Money Never Sleeps (dir Oliver Stone) Update on the Gordon Gecko story, set during the crash of 2008. Lavish and stylish, well acted and plotted, though the details of derivatives and leveraging were somewhat glossed over, leaving the viewer a little dazed at times, but the atmosphere was good and realistic.
Charlotte Gray Excellent adaptation of the Faulkes novel. Cate Blanchett stars. A gripping narrative, beautifully filmed. You may find holes in the plot, but they are forgiveable.
Hunger Games OK quasi-sf movie, but I wouldn’t rave about it.
Heat Cops and robbers with Al Pacino and Robert di Nero. Very good of its type.
Leon (dir Besson) Fabulous. Gary Oldman, Jean Reno, Natalie Portman. Hit men and crooked cops. Violence with a soft centre.
The Third Man (dir Reed) Looking very dated and stagey now, and not a good example of Welles’ acting. And the zither is absolutely inexorable.
The Seventh Seal (dir Bergman) Excellent movie, enjoyed it yet again. It doesn’t seem to date. It’s a little slow in parts, but really dramatically strong, well acted, well directed, great primitive locations.
Hugo (dir Scorsese) Both of these stars are for the technique of the movie – its look, particularly the clockwork, and the colour and sets and set decoration. The story itself is weak, and the pace of the movie is so slow that it’s seriously BORING. And the child is a bit twee. See The Artist. See Amelie (not Amelia). See, even, Scorsese’s own The Godfather. This comic book adaptation doesn’t work.
Stalker (dir Tarkovsky) There is a plot synopsis here . If you plan to watch this movie, I suggest you read it first. It’s important to know, before you start, that nothing much happens in the movie, but that it’s worth seeing because of the atmosphere and images. I won’t be watching it again, but I’m glad I saw it. I think it’s overrated, but that’s just me. All the other movie buffs think it’s great.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) Agatha Christie play done up for the movies. Great performance from Charles Laughton. Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich also star. I can’t like Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power is not a convincing Englishman, but they didn’t spoil it and the movie was redeemed by an excellent plot and very good filming.
The Artist Review here
Elite Syncopations Prompted by the Scott Joplin music in The Sting, we watched this ballet again. Even if you don’t like dance, you will find this cheeky, seductive, comical production from the Royal Ballet a treat. I promise.
The Sting Paul Newman and Robert Redford in a cleverly plotted confidence trick movie. Some fine surprises. Excellent music by Scott Joplin. Never seen it? You missed yourself.
Amadeus Saw this again on Blu-Ray. A brilliant movie with great music. Was impressed all over again.
The Secret in their Eyes Excellent Argentinian movie. We saw it last year for the first time, and couldn’t resist another viewing.
Zorba the Greek I was very impressed with this movie the first time I saw it – in the sixties. This time, I was still impressed with the filming and the acting, but I’d forgotten some of the horror it contains. Anthony Quinn makes a good Cretan, considering he’s a Mexican-Irish actor, you have to say he’s great.
The Company Men I didn’t expect much of this movie, except that it had Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner in it, but, in the event, it was quite good. Basically, it’s about redundancy, but it is treated so well that we were gripped by it. Story very good, and realistic. Acting excellent.
Topkapi Rather dated heist movie, much lightened by the presence of Peter Ustinov and Robert Morley, with Melina Mercuri overacting as usual. Directed by Jules Dassin, too, so it’s not all bad once it gets going.
The Lincoln Lawyer I can’t do better than the IMDB summary “A sleazy defense attorney has a crisis of conscience when he represents a wealthy client who has a foolproof plan to beat the system.” A Byzantine plot and unexpectedly well done.
The Informant! Fairly gripping, true, but hard-to-believe story of a price-fixing scam and embezzlement. Matt Damon stars with some success.
The General Buster Keaton’s famous locomotive chase movie. I pay tribute to the stunts without stuntmen, the effects without artificial assistance, the use of such hard-to-use vehicles as railway trains, the pioneering ambition of it all. But it’s a thin story with a pie-faced love interest.
Evita Finally saw this all the way through. I was very impressed by the music, the spectacle and the crowd scenes. Jimmy Nail, who’d have thought it? Banderas, surprisingly good considering the difficulty of some of his tunes. Madonna – a little weak compared with Elaine Page, but tuneful and very like Evita herself in appearance.
Primal Fear Passable courtroom thriller about an altar boy accused of murder. The high point is some excellent acting from a young Edward Norton.
In the Nick of Time Yaaawwwnnn. Johnnie Depp and Christopher Walken were never so boring. This unlikely tale makes no sense and evinces no tension.
Amelia Tripe. Painful to watch. Unbelievable. Riddled with anachronisms. Waste of talented actors.
Solaris (the Hollywood version) I haven’t seen the Tarkovsky movie, but this Clooney vehicle was so… unprepossessingly obvious, let’s say, .. that I felt insulted by it. To the point where I only watched about 20 minutes. The two stars are for the set decoration and FX, which were very good.
Conviction Nice ‘true’ movie about a sister campaigning to free her imprisoned brother. The movie spans about 16 years – it takes nearly as long to watch it, but it’s watchable.
Snake Eyes Excellent movie about a lovable bent cop and a military conspiracy at a boxing match. Impressively, the first 13 minutes appears to be one long take. The cinematography is better than the drama.
Crimson Rivers Stylish French Cop drama. It tries too hard. I’d not bother.
Staten Island Don’t waste your time on this promising, but ultimately hopeless movie. I only wasted 20 minutes.
The Time Traveller’s Wife Total chickflick masquerading as a science fiction drama. Lost patience very early and abandoned it.
In a Better World Not our kind of movie. A Danish movie about two troubled boys and their families. Meh. Tragedy is forecast at an early stage.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off still Our fifth? sixth? viewing of this mildly iconoclastic hilarious teen comedy. So Much Fun. Do not miss this, and make sure you watch to the end of the credits and beyond.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger A Woody Allen movie set in London! A messy farce of a movie, well-scripted, well-acted, amusing. I’d become bored by Allen’s Manhattan settings and neurotic New Yorkers. Somehow this was refreshing.
The Town Gangster thriller which I didn’t expect to like, but it was quite well done, with shoot-em-ups and car chases you could care about. Starred and directed by Ben Affleck. The direction was pretty good.
The Debt Tense thriller starring Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson as Mossad agents with a secret to keep. It would’ve been 5 star for me, but for repeated flashes back/forward/in-between, all unnecessary, in my opinion. They could have told the story in sequence with equal impact.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Excellent Cold War thriller, excellently acted. I confess I preferred the tv series in many ways, because it was more leisurely, but enjoyed this immensely too.
The Adjustment Bureau Another Philip K Dick story delivered to the screen. Well made. Not entirely satisfactory.
True Grit Didn’t expect to like it, but it was great.
Scenes from a Marriage Bergman. Recommended. Review here .
The Talented Mr Ripley Minghella’s adaptation of the Highsmith book adds a few plot elements not in the novel, but it’s a great movie. See it.
Cowboys and Aliens Total tosh, but nicely filmed and, on the whole, as entertaining as any shoot-em-up movie. But don’t go unless you like cowboy and/or alien movies. Bad start to the year’s movie-watching.
Sister Act A Whoopi Goldberg vehicle, redeemed only by a number of the bit players, Hollywood should be ashamed of itself.
Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) . Wonderful Almadovar movie with great soundtrack. The plot a trifle weird, but the photography, acting and atmosphere are spot on. See it.
Harold and Maud Weird but beautiful movie about young man with a death obsession and his friend, an old lady. It’s billed as a black comedy, and it’s comical at times but it’s also very impressive and well made. Don’t miss it if it drifts by your tv.
Moonstruck . Again. It’s an obsession. But watch it if you get the chance. The following from my previous mini-review: “OK, it’s a slushfest in places, but it’s funny, too, and this is one of my favourite movies. Cher, Nicholas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Tony Aiello… Dean Martin with That’s Amore. ”
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest . I don’t know what I expected, but, like the book, this third, and last, in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series is the worst of the three. There’s no point in watching it unless you’ve seen the other two. Nevertheless, a well made thriller, though The Girl is weirder than ever in this episode.
Made in Dagenham . Excellent Brit-pic about a strike at Ford in 1966. Not, I must say, subject matter close to my heart, but beautifully made, and my era. I was working in gritty Glasgow at the time. Excellent acting from all concerned.
Le Quattro Volte . Beautiful to look at, this Cannes-winning movie is very still. It’s easy to commend for cinematography, hard to commend for plot. Impossible to commend for characterisation, except for the goats and the dog, who are great actors. But for immersive, dreamy, sometimes tense, often sad, contemplation of a year in the life of a village, it can’t be beaten. You are a fly on the wall, and it works.
Complicity . Despite liking Iain Banks, I disliked this film. Adding to the irritation were a mumbled soundtrack and no subtitles.
The Social Network . Interesting, but rather unsatisfactory. story of a lawsuit.
The Last Victim . Ugly little movie about a student’s relationship with an imprisoned killer.
Four Weddings and a Funeral. Entertaining slush, contains feelgood factor.
Love Actually. Entertaining slush, contains feelgood factor.
Tron Legacy Dear, oh dear.
Playtime Jacques Tati’s final movie. A shame, really, as it doesn’t come close to M. Hulot’s Holiday, or Mon Oncle, despite being expensively set and filled with characters. Tati’s subtle humour is drawn out very thin here, and the laughs are wry, rather than uproarious.
The American The fourth star is for the scenery and cinematography in this otherwise predictable, yet entertaining, George Clooney vehicle.
Route Irish Ken Loach’s excellent movie about Iraq, set in Liverpool. A difficult concept, brilliantly executed, with a few stark messages for us all. A little violent in places, but not remotely gratuitous.
Source Code Excellent psychological thriller.
Se7en Gruesome but clever serial killer movie with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. Much of what Brad mumbles is inaudible, but it doesn’t really matter.
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince Actually not at all bad. Excellent effects as usual and very good acting all round. My only problem… I’m not all that keen on Harry himself.
Anatomy of a Murder Another old favourite that hasn’t worn well. Jimmy Stewart in a courtroom battle, to the accompaniment of an over-enthusiastic jazz soundtrack by Duke Ellington. <<June 2008 Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Courtroom Drama”>> I don’t see it myself.
Fanny and Alexander Ingmar Bergman’s late family drama, much warmer than most of Bergman’s creations. Outstanding experience, somewhat haunted by the knowledge that we were watching not the three hour cinema release, nor the five hour tv series, but a cut version of the five hour one, running about four hours. I saw part of the tv series years ago, and identified a couple of omitted scenes. Fuller review here.
Downfall Excellent re-enactment of the last days in Hitler’s bunker. OK, we all know what happened, but seeing it unfolding on the screen, with wonderful cinematography, was unforgettable.
Knight and Day . Totally unbelievable over-the-top stupid violence and effects. I lasted about ten minutes, by which time the body count must have been in the dozens. Tom Cruise fitted this movie. Cameron Diaz didn’t.
Unknown Quite a good movie on a familiar theme to a number of American movies. American arrives in Europe and has his identity questioned. (see Frantic, The Bourne *, others I forget). Competently made and not over-the-top. Liam Neeson stars.
Sherlock Holmes (the Guy Ritchie one) Spectacular, but over-violent, new case for the famous sleuth. Set at some point between 1892 and 1894 (judging by views of Eros and the incomplete Tower Bridge), it contains much steampunk, some excellent cgi scenery of Victorian London, and an excess of fist fights, brawls and explosions.
White Ribbon Well-thought-of, Oscar-nominated, German film set in pre-First World War Germany. In black and white, rather harrowing, puzzling rather than mysterious. Beautifully filmed, but very uncomfortable viewing and desperately slow. I wanted to like it better, but it was too bleak.
Postcards from the Edge Mildly entertaining, well-acted by Shirley McLaine and Meryl Streep, but ultimately unsatisfactory drama, adapted from Carrie Fisher’s account of her relationship with mother Debbie Reynolds.
After.Life Living proof that a gripping movie doesn’t need car chases and shoot-outs to be totally gripping. A minimum of special effects, Christina Ricci and Liam Neeson combine to entertain. Actually, this movie seems to have been generally badly received, but not in this household.
Total Recall Another example of a good story spoilt by a ridiculous level of violence (see Inception). The high spot is when the large lady’s disguise peels off to reveal Arnie Schwartzenegger.
Witches Delightful children’s movie. Full of well-cast actors, great Muppet effects, tense in parts. (Warning: no car chases or shoot’em’ups)
Inception Acknowledging effort and effects, but a movie that’ll be soon forgotten. see review
Ivan the Terrible Part 2 I’m giving this 3 stars out of sentimentality, I think. This sequel to Part 1 is slow to the point of stationary, and adds little to Part 1 other than a splash of colour half way through. It was made at the same time as Brief Encounter and Passport to Pimlico, for example, but it feels much older. Eisenstein was a great movie maker, but things have moved on.
The Sorceror’s Apprentice I can’t believe I watched 20 minutes of this. It’s a kids’ movie, but Nicolas Cage is better than this overblown fantasy.
Case Histories BBC tv. Excellent 6-part tv series based on Kate Atkinson’s books. Great casting, Great photography. Atkinson plot complexity. Great Edinburgh locations. Recommended when they repeat it, as they certainly will.
The King’s Speech Jolly fine movie. Great acting all round. Engaging story. Geoffrey Rush particularly good. But I can’t see me wanting to watch it again, which is the mark of a great movie for me.
Black Swan Carried the air of not knowing where it was coming from or where it was going. Unnecessary girl porn. Unclear schizoid delusions. Left a bad taste in the mouth. Having said that, Natalie Portman did a great job with terrible material. Without her, it would have been straight to DVD. As it was, they got an Oscar nomination for it.
The Secret in their Eyes Absolute treasure of an Argentinian crime movie. That very rare thing, a movie that kept us on the edge of our seats from start to finish. Entertaining on every level from cinematography through music to acting and direction. dir: Juan Jose Campanella.
Ill-met by Moonlight I had long treasured nostalgic memories of this b&w classic about the kidnap of a German general on Crete in WWII. The repeat viewing was disappointing. Dirk Bogarde as Patrick Leigh Fermor (not entirely wrong casting), the whole thing extremely stagey with very obvious indoor sets and jolly Greek peasants. Ugh.
Beverley Hills Cop II subtitled in Greek, but it didn’t improve by re-watching.
The Life of David Gale Cracking good Death Row movie, with Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet. Well-plotted, full of little surprises, recommended.
Chungking Express Excellent Chinese language movie from Hong Kong. Such vibrant photography, great lighting, interesting locations, lots of activity. A bit like the street atmosphere of Bladerunner. Only problem was the story, which falls into two parts, and seems to have been made up as they went along, so it didn’t always make a lot of sense, but I’d watch another film fom the same stable (Wong Kar-wai) in a flash.
The Tailor of Panama Old VHS recording. I don’t know what I saw in this le Carre adaptation the first time. Probably just the plot, because the movie itself is pretty second-rate – it appears low-budget and hurriedly made. Geoffrey Rush, the tailor himself, is the star, Jamie Lee Curtis stuck in there incongruously, Pierce Brosnan doing his Roger Moore impersonation.
Greenberg Ben Stiller being unnaturally gnomic. I’m not all that keen on Ben Stiller, even when he’s doing what he’s best at. It looked as if it was destined to be a quirky romcom. As soon as I detected that, I was outathere. Sorry, Ben, but you got one star. It could have been one of these , but the movie wasn’t bad enough.
The Lovely Bones Strange one, this. The filming was excellent, and the special effects very good. It was just such a soppy story incongruously wrapped up in a murder. The scenes in heaven were… unconvincing. Frankly, I think it would have done better as a police procedural thriller.
1984 Deeply depressing, yet masterly, version of the Orwell novel. John Hurt and Richard Burton. It seems to me that it is very close to the plot and original atmosphere of the book.
Agora Promising, apparently original, story of a lady philosopher in ancient Alexandria. Very nice cgi recreations of Alexandria, but I abandoned it after 20 minutes when it hadn’t gripped me.
Awakenings Brilliantly acted, highly emotional, (almost) true story of a doctor who finds a way of re-animating catatonic patients decades after their catatonia commenced. Robin Williams is the doctor. Robert di Nero the principal patient.
Robin Hood (the 2008 version) Despite the fact that this movie, like Gladiator (which I quite enjoyed), was partly filmed in our local woods, was based on a ‘history’ that never happened, starred Russell Crowe, and was directed by Ridley Scott, there is no comparison between the quality of the movies. Even the Costner comedic version was better. Garbled crap from beginning to end, and the end is at the point where most Robin Hood stories begin!
A Serious Man Total waste of time. I’ve learned to equate “quirky” in a movie description with an entertainment value somewhere between Pants and Meh. This one was at the low end.
Kenneth Macmillan Triple Bill 3 Macmillan ballets from The Royal Ballet. The standout winner of the three is Elite Syncopations, based on Joplin’s music with fantastic cheeky costumes. Highly recommended, even if you don’t like ballet.
La Boheme Great Australian Opera version of the opera with the EXCELLENT David Hobson.
The Mikado Excellent Jonathan Miller version of the G & S operetta, with Eric Idle and Lesley Garrett.
Equus Disturbing story, but very watchable. Richard Burton very powerful in this.
Bolt Yuk. Hated it. OK, it’s a kids’ movie, but unsatisfactory.
The Fortune Cookie Matthau and Lemmon comedy which hasn’t worn well. I liked it back in the 60s, but…
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . Very pretty movie, this. Not easy for me to summarise because on the two occasions I’ve seen it, it has had a severely soporific effect on me, but, while I was awake, it was beautiful.
Leap Year Engaging, trivial romcom enlivened by stunning Irish scenery.
Les Regles du Jeu DVD. A famous film which did not impress. Too many strident characters overacting. I couldn’t evince any interest in any of them.
Repo Men Initially promising feature about spare parts surgery which rapidly descended into a blood-soaked carve-’em-up which went on too long and ended with a cheap trick. Only escaped with two stars because of Jude Law.
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang Amusing star-studded children’s movie. The cgi piglets were wonderful, the villain villainous, the children more than usually acceptable actors. Kids of all ages will enjoy it. We did.
Pulp Fiction More repulsively violent than I remembered, but it retains its wry humour and expert filming. Disappointingly, there were no subtitles. I’m sure it might have been even more amusing if I could have made out all the dialogue.
Broken Embraces This Almodovar movie was most disappointing after the very excellent Volver. Any movie, though, that gives me a rather explicit casual sex scene in the first 5 minutes and 3 or 4 flashback/flashforward events in the first 20 minutes is going to receive the same treatment from me that this one did. Switch off, Eject. Also, the DVD mechanism for subtitles etc was extremely stupid and already had my dander up.
The Fourth Kind Absolutely chilling alien contact story, set in Alaska, and supported by (supposedly live) video and audio evidence for verisimilitude. It is presented as a drama documentary, and sometimes the drama is shown split screen with the video evidence. Worrying. It felt real.
Anamorph Great idea for a serial killer story. The killer arranges murder scenes into an optical illusion. But it doesn’t really work very well. The initial illusion, a camera obscura, would never work in practice. Most of the others are badly displayed, and the story is weak. Bit of a waste, really.
Black Widow Debra Winger in a very well thought-out murder hunt. No car chases, no shoot-outs, no special effects, no explosions, no sex scenes, no lavatory scenes, no vomiting, no swearing, no punch-ups. I can’t imagine why it was ever made in today’s climate.
Carlito’s Way Gripping thriller. Al Pacino stars. Brian Palma directs. You really care what happens. I should add that it is real tragedy. The hero puts himself in peril, not because of a bad trait, but because of loyalty, and he perishes because he showed mercy.
Ivan the Terrible Part 1 DVD. Classic Eisenstein biopic of Csar Ivan IV, a contemporary of England’s Elizabeth I. It was made in 1943-44, but looks older. The framing of the movie is impeccable, the costumes, sets and extras lavish. Music by Prokofiev, great choral background. The use of posed figures and shadows deeply impressive. There is a pro-Stalin propaganda element, as Ivan attempts to unite the whole of Russia against Germans, Baltic states, Poland and Finland. There is a reference to English ships supplying Russia via the White Sea (cue the WW2 Murmansk convoys). I would have given it 5 stars, but it is very slow and the subtitles are very poor.
Millers Crossing Rather deadpan performance by Gabriel Byrne in a well-filmed prohibition-era gangster movie. Machiavellian plot interspersed with over the top gratuitous violence. Byrne survives repeated beatings without visible damage. Unsavoury, really.
Harry Brown Initially glacially slow, the movie warms up to a rather predictable shoot-’em-up and riot. A gritty location in some hopeless multistory housing estate in England. If you fancy Michael Caine as an elderly hard man, and you enjoy rough sex, drugs, delinquents and sadism in your movies, you may enjoy it. I didn’t.
Pan’s Labyrinth Beautifully filmed, often very grim, Spanish language movie about a) The remnants of the Spanish Civil War; b) A child’s relationship with her wicked stepfather; c) A fantasy quest. The whole is exquisitely cut to present the real and fantasy world living side by side in a very natural fashion. Recommended.
Thelma and Louise If you have never seen this movie, put it on your wishlist. Great road / crime movie, with Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Michael Madsen, a sympathetic Harvey Keitel, a loathsome Brad Pitt, directed by Ridley Scott. Great scenery towards the end, a rousing country soundtrack, satisfying denouement. Recommended.
Moulin Rouge – See review
Invictus – Very impressive movie, with Morgan Freeman as a credible Mandela, and Matt Damon as the rather laconic rugby captain Pienaar. A rousing story of national reconciliation. Quite heart-warming in places, and not desperately far from the truth.
Where the Wild Things Are – Disappointing movie version of the much loved graphic children’s book. The Wild Things themselves were quite exciting, but the pace of the movie was lethargic, the back-story, absent from the book, was tedious. It didn’t grip.
Green Zone – Rather noisy and busy Iraq War conspiracy theory movie, with Matt Damon doing a “Jason Bourne” solo hero job. Set dressing, CGI and military hardware excellent. Story rather believable. Acting, not bad; all the main cast were convincing. Most characters did a lot of rushing around ruined buildings, brandishing weapons.
The 300 Spartans – – Not the recent “300”, but a similar story with a 1962 star-studded cast in togas on cardboard sets. Absolute Hollywood tosh. Ditched it 20 minutes in when the first love scene began, set in a studio with bushes, rocks and bad acting.
Mon Oncle – DVD. Jacques Tati, but not only Tati; an excellent supporting cast of machines, people, dogs and a horse. Imaginative send-up of modern (1950s) living, and charming, as ever.
Synecdoche, New York – I think a director has a duty to get me hooked on a movie within the first five minutes. Five minutes into this one, and all I knew was that the child was worried her morning poop was green in colour. I gave it another five. Then I ditched it. Crap.
Master and Commander – Totally terrific again on this third viewing.
Ghost Dog – DVD. Actually quite liked this Forest Whitaker movie where he is a mafia hit man who follows the way of the samurai. Sensitively filmed and without the blood you might expect from such a production.
Zen – Ratking – tv movie, Again, I liked the ambience, but the plot of this bears NO RESEMBLANCE AT ALL to the book, and was not properly worked out. Sheesh.
Zen – Cabal – tv movie, quite well done, but it has drifted so far from the book which I read recently, and not in a good way, unlike Vendetta.
Jour de Fête DVD. – An early Jacques Tati classic. This was the recently restored colour one, and it’s not as good as the b & w version that I remember. The pacing is different. I think they haven’t edited it the same way as the original. Having said that, I laughed from beginning to end. You can’t help it.
Alice in Wonderland – the Tim Burton one. I wasn’t expecting much of this, especially since it was HDTV, rather than cinema 3D. However, it was very agreeable, consistently interesting and, I suspect, would have been rather exhausting in 3D.
Wallander – Pyramid – tv movie, not very close to the book, but Rolf Lassgård does a lovely job.
Zen – Vendetta – tv movie, good adaptation of the book, slight plot changes, mostly for the better.