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About 50 Word Film Reviews
New films, old films, strange films, obscure films....
DDDDDD – Exceptional and unparalleled.
DDDDD – Excellent, a special film.
DDDD – Highly enjoyable, recommended.
DDD – Worth watching, but flawed.
DD – Bland, dull and average.
D – You’ll envy the deaf and blind.
(1955) Bette Davis, Richard Todd, Joan Collins, Jay Robinson, Herbert Marshall, Dan O'Herlihy, Robert Douglas. Dir: Henry Koster.
The ambitious Walter Raleigh manages to curry the favour of Queen Elizabeth. The costumes and colour are ravishing, and Davis’ performance is barnstorming. Not that Todd or Collins aren’t good fun themselves too - this fanciful historical romp hits all the right notes.
(2014) Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine. Dir: Matthew Vaughn
A tearaway is recruited into a secret spy agency by an agent who knew his father. Generally good fun, but the joke starts to wear thin by the end, when it very much becomes the genre it was initially sending up, and not particularly spectacularly.
(1997) Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Maurice Dean Wint. Dir: Vincenzo Natali.
A group of strangers awake in a strange maze of rooms, many containing lethal traps. It has its good points - some very successful suspense sequences and character arcs you might not have predicted. But the script is a bit weak, and the conspiracy theories/hypotheses thrown around are complete cobblers.
(2014) Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Martin Short. Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
A stoner PI is tasked by an ex-girlfriend to prevent her boyfriend from being committed by his wife. Knowing film noir and the American crime fiction tradition will help in understanding this postmodern pastiche. A witty, surreal and rewarding experience for those who can digest it, but too long.
(2015) Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Albert Brooks. Dir: J. C. Chandor.
An oil distributer struggles to grow his business without resorting to the criminality of his competitors. Cements Chandor as one America’s best new filmmakers. A tense slow-burn that asks just how we define criminality, and looks forward to the corrupt business empires of the modern world.
(1928) Gustav Fröhlich, Else Heller, Albert Steinruck, Betty Amann. Dir: Joe May.
A policeman is consumed with guilt when an attractive jewel thief seduces him to avoid arrest. The story is paper thin, but the cinematography is exquisite and there are moments of strong drama and eroticism to maintain the interest.
(1959) Victor Mature, Red Buttons, Rhonda Fleming, Kathryn Grant, Vincent Price, Gilbert Roland. Dir: Joseph M. Newman.
A circus owner must tolerate an accountant and a PR woman as his show struggles to break even. A lot’s been spent on the production, it’s just a shame the results aren't more impressive. It’s watchable, but neither the script nor direction raise much higher than average.
(2015) Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict. Dir: Clint Eastwood.
Story of Chris Kyle, who during the Iraq war became America’s most lethal sniper. Divisive, depending where your political ideals lie. To Eastwood’s credit, he does provide food for scepticism, questioning military practice and black-and-white thinking. But ultimately he’s for Kyle, and perhaps he could be more balanced.
(1929) Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Donald Douglas. Dir: James Cruze.
An arrogant ventriloquist drives his wife away and starts believing more and more in his puppet. Even for an early sound movie, this is a chore. Stilted dialogue and stiff camera work are bad enough, but story’s so thin - an excuse for lots of tedious music numbers - it’s near unwatchable.
(2014) Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee. Dir: Matt Reeves.
Searching for power and resources, human plague survivors must enter the territory of the evolved apes. Superior sequel. Hollywood’s franchise factory would be more bearable if they all had the Apes’ series emotional resonance and skilled, ambitious realisation. This is drama of near Shakespearian proportions and the action utterly thrilling.