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All reviews - Movies (45) - TV Shows (4) - Books (8) - Music (1) - Games (2)

Touching

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2012 06:27 (A review of The Notebook)

After much pestering from my wife (I've been urged to say "gentle persuading" instead but those with Y chromosomes know which word I mean) I saw this as part of the "date-night" package deal thing with the fire going and blankets and so forth.

I wasn't expecting to be drawn in as much as I was and although the story has some odd moments I was able to keep it together for the touching ones. Until the very end, that is when my "winter hayfever" suddenly struck.

A great film for lovers.


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This should be burned and the ashes buried

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2012 05:38 (A review of The Brave One)

An old idea rehashed and tricked out with a ludicrous plot and some very bad messages which only made me angry.

The only beauty in this film lies in the monologues. That's where it begins and ends for me. The sadness and loss in Erica's voice is heartbreaking and Jodie Foster has a voice with a smoky sensuousness, laden with emotion and vulnerability that is unparalleled in our time; "... eight hairpins made out of bones. That Elouise." Tore me apart.

By contrast this film had so much revulsion, in its message and in its modus. When Mercer (Terrence Howard) tells Erica (Jodie Foster) that his hands didn't shake when he killed someone because he was on the "right" side of the law, thereby implying that Erica's murderous behaviour was at least forgivable, I was so angry I wanted to throw up. That message is just the ticket for any wannabe vigilante with a gun and a sense of inadequacy.

The plot dances around the realities (exponentially increasing skill with a gun, no screaming agony from the victims just clean fatal shootings, no bystanders, etc) as though they're irrelevant so it can get to the "good bits". Initially I had sympathy for her, even when she started packing (illegal) heat. The first couple of incidents were just bad luck but then she began looking for trouble now that she had Mr. 9mm to back up her righteous anger, and my sympathy ebbed away to be replaced with contempt culminating with the rooftop scene which was just utter garbage.

I was, by then, confident that it couldn't get worse. Until the ending, when Mercer gives her the chance to beat the rap. Sick and twisted rah-rah garbage that is a gift to the gun lobby.

Jodie is way above this and surely she didn't need the money. For nearly forty years I've been a strong admirer of hers. I know I always will be. But this was not one of her finer moments.


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Stunning

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2012 05:19 (A review of Anna and the King)

The story (plot if you prefer) is well known and it may help to know it beforehand thereby leaving the viewer free to appreciate the rest of it.

Sets, costumes, soundtrack and cinematography are amongst the best you'll ever find in cinema. Simple as that. The supporting cast is very strong and they really needed to be. If I were to praise them all this review would be too long and perhaps feel somewhat gushing, but when it's good, say it's good.

Yun-Fat Chow has such a light touch that you need to see the film a number of times to appreciate his sleight of hand in the role and it becomes more appreciable considering his female counterpart. Chow needs more roles like this because he has serious talent that is wasted in action films.

Jodie Foster's portrayal of Leonowens is rock solid. Her British accent, though sometimes overly clipped, is almost word and syllable perfect - languages are one of her many gifts. She looks superb; redhead hence the pale skin leaving her face in almost a single plane out of which her piercing blue eyes become watchful and intelligent rather than soft and alluring, until darkness falls.

The film is a bit epic in terms of length but only according to the clock because it entertains on so many levels, time becomes irrelevant. Some films can seem long at 90 minutes, this is exactly the right length thanks to thoughtful writing and incredible direction.


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Jodie's zenith

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2012 04:20 (A review of Nell)

A lot of suspending of disbelief is needed for the plot, circumstances and the overly idyllic ending.

Yet embedded in this is the best and possibly most moving performance that Jodie Foster has ever given in her life (so far, I fervently hope). The rest of the cast support well because they're also solid but they're almost incidental to the story in some ways, like the gilded frame around an old master painting.

She manages to send the message with crushingly sweet tenderness and beauty: that Nell Kellty is the real thing, it's the rest of us that need to wake up. It's hard not to envy her, it's far, far easier just to fall in love.

There are some incredible scenes and vignettes in this film. The scene of Nell remembering her dead twin, out by the lake, through the mirror pull me apart every time I see them. There's a great deal of Jodie's real self in this; the tenderness and the loneliness. I think that's why her performance feels so superb.

Look for the daisies she places in the eyes of the skull of her dead twin sister, that'll have you swaying like a "ta-ay in-tha win'".


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Echoes of a Summer review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2012 04:00 (A review of Echoes of a Summer)

A somewhat tritely sentimental story that has poignant moments. Jodie Foster's first glimmer of her colossal potential.


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This is my house ...

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2012 03:23 (A review of The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane)

An underrated cult classic based on a novel of the same name by Laird Koenig.

Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen) is a mixture of creepy lecherousness and silken charm with a voice that puts me in mind of a cat's claw snagging nylon. His mother, Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith), is an interfering tightly-wrapped WASP who views children, particularly confident non-obsequious Rynn, as annoying nuisances. Watching Rynn (Jodie Foster) go toe-to-toe with her and get the upper hand is a delight and Rynn knows exactly where Cora's achilles heel is in the form of her son Frank's hinted at indiscretions with young girls. When Rynn hits the mark (and she does several times) Cora is visibly shaken as her pretentious respectability shows its fragility. It matters very much to Cora what people in the community (other WASPs) think of her. The dialogue is carefully assembled and Jodie shows remarkable skill and rare talent, thank goodness she decided to stay in the film business and with few exceptions delight audiences as an adult also.

Mort Shuman's (slightly porn-groove) soundtrack is a little cheesy - though probably not for the time - but his portrayal of Miglioritti made up for it. Scott Jacoby was too old for the role but it might have been difficult to find someone the right age to show the elan he did. His character was good for Rynn who showed that she could not only look after herself but also after Mario. There are some touchingly close and tender scenes that might make some people today feel uncomfortable. In my opinion they were germane to the plot and certainly garnered my sympathy for the two young lovers.

My only gripe is an unnecessary 'nude' scene (doubled for by Jodie's sister Connie). First, Californian tan-lines are unlikely to be visible on someone in the depths of a New England winter. Second, Jodie fought against the scene being included and was quite upset about it and concerned that people would think it was her. Third, it added nothing useful to the plot or the film and today that scene would never make it past the screenwriter/director.

The film differs significantly from the novel in that the film shows Rynn as an accidental killer which was cleverly continued to the ending when Frank says to her "You know how to survive, don't you." to which she says to herself, as she adds cyanide to her own cup, "I thought I did."

It's a fine example of Jodie's precocious character and prodigious talent; at the tender age of 13 she could fill her role next to very strong adult players. This is a real find if, like me, you are an admirer of hers and want to marvel at her wise-beyond-years assurance.


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Bill Bryson The Complete Notes: Notes from a Small Island / Notes from a Big Country review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 6 June 2012 08:49 (A review of Bill Bryson The Complete Notes: Notes from a Small Island / Notes from a Big Country)

Bryson's comparisons between the megalith that was birthed by the imperialith is interesting. Perhaps paucity drove the British idiosyncracy of restraint (hiding innate greed) whereas plenitude drove the US core value of naked greed. Either way, this is a ride - like it or not - through the history of a once imperialistic monster into the adolescence of the megalomaniacal behemoth it spawned. Interesting, disturbing and sobering. Next: Germany, Russia, and now China. Watch, and learn America.


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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bryson, Bill review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 6 June 2012 08:41 (A review of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bryson, Bill)

I'll keep this short because Bill didn't. Read it. I knew a lot of what he says in this book (not tooting my horn here) but he adds so much background that it becomes compelling to read/research more. A very interesting, often humourous and sometimes shocking but ultimately very rewarding book. Des Moines' loss is Britain's gain. Welcome to Blighty Mr. B.


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Memoirs of a Spymaster: The Man Who Waged a Secret War Against the West review

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 24 April 2012 10:58 (A review of Memoirs of a Spymaster: The Man Who Waged a Secret War Against the West)

This is an excellent primer for anyone interested in how intelligence services developed their tradecraft during the Cold War. Written by the former head of East German Intelligence (HVA) it details his early life, ideological motivations and the incredible success his department had despite being woefully underfunded and technologically disadvantaged.

Conducting operations on a shoestring Wolf managed to refine the art of intelligence gathering by exploiting a much-overlooked component; people. Wolf pioneered and extended PSYOPS techniques, some of which have been in use since before Sun Tzu's treatise The Art of War.

An engrossing book that teaches as much about human nature and its frailties as it does about one of the most turbulent times in recent history.


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Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J Edgar Hoover review

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 23 April 2012 05:09 (A review of Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J Edgar Hoover)

This dense and detailed read about one of the most influential and powerful men in
US security history requires a lot of patience and an open mind to read. Clearly
Hoover was an intelligent and meticulous man who sought to portray himself as a
stalwart of US values and defence against any threat, real or imagined, that would
help support his position and make him more indispensable.

Hoover probably believed a lot of what he said but the reader is left in no doubt
that he played up any threat he could to further consolidate his power and extend
his already considerable reach. He was feared and respected by all levels of people
in Washington since he had files on most of them that could threaten
their positions. Thus ensconsed in a deeply padded position he could more or less
call the shots to congress. He asked for money and resources and was rarely refused.
Even Nixon, no paragon of virtue, wanted to fire Hoover but knew that he could not
take the risk.

This is a richly rewarding read, deeply researched and with an impressive bibliography
(particularly in the hardback edition). Whether you believe any or all of it is
up to you but, as the old saying goes: "You just couldn't make this sh*t up."


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