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tony mac (Dunfermline)

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Diamonds Are Forever [DVD] [1971]
Diamonds Are Forever [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £6.97

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars dreadful rubbish, 5 Nov. 2009
After the edgy excellence but box office disappointment of On Her Majesty's Secret Service this was a return to safer, more formulaic fare, with a firm nod towards the double-entendre of the upcoming Roger Moore years.

Much is made of Connery's return, but he looks as bored as he had in his last outing, is clearly overweight and looks years older than his actual 40 years. He actually looked younger and fitter 12 years later when he made his independent Bond effort with Kevin McClory, the man who spent an entire career living off his rights to Thunderball.

The plot is routine, the supporting cast poor, the action sequences mechanical and lacking in exitement, the Las Vegas setting garish, the special effects and continuity sloppy and the wardrobe department on permanent malfunction (some of Connery's combinations have to be seen to be believed).

Pass it by and ignore the comments that seem to think that Connery's comeback is sufficient reason enough to watch - Sir sean is strictly on autopilot throughout.

Brideshead Revisited [DVD] [2008]
Brideshead Revisited [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Emma Thompson
Price: £4.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars pleasing moments but too many liberties taken, 4 Nov. 2009
Its really not a bad adaptation; necessarily condensed, beautifully shot and carefully produced. Most of Waugh's key themes are preserved, but adapter Andrew Davies takes too many liberties with elements of the plot and all the main characters are unnecessarily compromised.

Mathew Goode is a solid Charles Ryder, but this version makes him a much more ambiguous character. In the book Charles is dazzled by Sebastian and by Brideshead itself in a rather pure, selfless way. Here, his motivations are suggested to be more murky - does he tolerate Sebastian and Julia simply to gain a proprietorial foothold over Brideshead itself?

The relationship between Charles, Sebastian and Julia is also misconceived, fashioned as a romantic triangle with Sebastian's rejection by Charles given as the prime reason behind his descent into depression and alchoholism. This was never the case in the book, where Charles and Julia do not get involved until many years after his rejection by Sebastian.

All of this particularly compromises the character of Sebastian himself. In the book and the TV series he is a dazzlingly beautiful, glamorous and charismatic character who Charles never fails to be captivated by, and his decline is more one of spirit and the burdens of his family than of something as feeble as a romantic slight. In this film, and as played by the small, slight and average-looking Ben Wishaw, Sebastian is reduced to little more than a feeble, needy hanger-on, stripped of the self-containment that gives him his dignity. This badly imbalances the film and robs it of one of its most important allegories - the inevitable decline yet continuing attraction of a particular social class.

King Kong [DVD]
King Kong [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fay Wray
Offered by UclickWeDeliver
Price: £10.73

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars old gold, 2 Oct. 2004
This review is from: King Kong [DVD] (DVD)
King Kong is one of those genuinely iconic movies that transcend classification and time. This is not to say it isn't dated; as an early talkie - and a special effects driven one at that - it inevitably is. Yet its primitivism actually adds to its enjoyment. By the standards of any generation 'Kong', once it gets going, is still pretty much the most sustained, fast-paced and imaginative action adventure ever made.
Examined against modern CGI monster movies, the stop-motion techniques of Willis O'Brien may now look jerky and crude, but the sheer scale and ambition of them is still way ahead of anything done since. Think about it, in all the Jurassic Park's and Godzilla's of the last generation, it's more the conviction and naturalism of the monsters themselves that we admire rather than what they actually get up to. A triumph of muscle and tissue co-ordination, they run around a bit and attack people and let out deafening surround sound-roars, but do any of them manage the kind of big scale action Kong does? Within an hour of screen time our great ape fights three separate monsters, brings down a native village, rips up New York and becomes a cinematic martyr atop the Empire State Building. Beside this the activities of our snorting, sweating, salivating CGI creatures seems quite passive.
Its this giddy ambition of the film that still keeps it ahead of the pack. Despite all the money chucked around, no recent monster movie has ever delivered quite so much. If we can see beyond the squeaky soundtrack, the dodgy acting and fuzzy monochrome we can still shake our heads and marvel at the fact that it was even attempted, let alone done.
And lets not ignore the other aspects that make Kong great. The fantastic art direction creating what is still the scariest, most mysterious jungle ever put on screen. Max Steiner's fantastic music score that set the template for movie soundtracks to come. The detailed, atmospheric sound-effects that were years ahead of their time and belie the technology available. The seamless editing once Kong appears and the no-nonsense direction of Cooper and Schoedsack that never wastes a shot once we get the static preliminaries out of the way. If ever there were two 20th century adventurers who deserved their own biopic it is surely Cooper and Schoedsack - they were the Indiana Joneses of their day.
Looked at historically, Kong is a fascinating example of other aspects of 30s cinema. Dialogue is hard-boiled and minimalist in the crime reporter way so beloved of the time. The acting is stagy and cartoonish but oddly endearing in this fantasy setting. Men are men - they bark at each other, discuss nothing personal, are largely sketched in and generally get about things with minimum fuss. No wonder movies are so much longer these days, with all the analysing, character development and soul-searching that goes on. For her part, Fay Wray is no plucky heroine, she is just there to be beautiful, fragile and in need of constant rescue. Wray may have become an iconic blonde image through this picture (despite actually being a brunette), but she is no feminist advancement, nor is she ever meant to be.
Kong himself is largely treated unsympathetically. He moons over Wray but she hates him from beginning to end, and it's only in his final moments against the by-planes that the audience is allowed to feel sorry for him. This is absolutely right * Kong should for the most part be dangerous and terrifying, not some cuddly ape. He is the stuff of nightmares and should not be a familiar if overgrown gorilla from some nature programme. This is where model work and stop-motion really do have it over on the naturalness of CGI * the lack of realism works to its advantage. It will be interesting to see how Peter Jackson handles this crucial aspect of Kong's success in his upcoming CGI-heavy remake.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2012 8:53 PM BST

Lost Girls
Lost Girls
by Andrew Pyper
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a book which defies pigeon-holeing, 8 Sept. 2004
This review is from: Lost Girls (Paperback)
I remember starting this book shortly after finishing that linguistic abomination 'The Da Vinci Code' and feeling stark relief that I was at least reading something by a guy with a genuine prose talent!
As a first novel this is interesting stuff because it wilfully refuses to be drawn into a specific category. Court-room drama, psychological thriller, ghost story, character study - its all of these.
In trying to be so many things the book does suffer a bit from falling between stools, and at well over 400 pages its much too long for its relatively simple story and small cast of characters.
Its flawed, amoral, drug addicted central character Barth Crane is a fascinating creation and I do hope the author resurrects him in a follow up.
All in all an excellent first book and a talent to watch.

The Shining [DVD] [1980]
The Shining [DVD] [1980]
Dvd ~ Jack Nicholson
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.99

17 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly over rated, 12 May 2004
This review is from: The Shining [DVD] [1980] (DVD)
A failed writer battling against alcoholism takes a job as a caretaker in an off-season Colorado hotel. Once installed, family tensions and supernatural forces within the hotel itself put the entire family in peril.

Stephen King's excellent horror novel was essentially a character study of a family coming apart through the weakness of an alcoholic husband driven over the edge in a remote and spooky off-season hotel. The horror was as much psychological as supernatural, and it was King's ability to develop strong characters and a believable trajectory of domestic and psychological breakdown which gave the novel its power. Any film adaptation operating with such a small cast and single location needed equally subtle, careful writing and direction to effectively bring the suspense and horror out.
Stanley Kubrick was entirely wrong for this project, which badly exposed his limitations as a writer/director. His very deliberate, almost academic style is visually impressive, but too often fails to create believable, sympathetic characters. In his films the characters tend to be chess pieces on a board largely designed to manipulate the story or whatever obscure theme or visual reference the director has in mind. It surely has to be significant that large portions of this film take place in mazes - an organic one outside the hotel and the labyrinth of corridors inside it. This is a director who enjoys manoeuvering his actors around controlled environments like lab mice.
Stuck here with just a few characters, most of them hugely miscast, the whole exercise falls apart in terrible scripting, over-wrought performances sometimes bordering on the laughable and clumsy, ham-fisted plot development.
An uncontrolled Jack Nicholson comes across as barking mad from minute one. Shelley Duvall as his wife is irritating and hysterical and the precognitive powers of Danny Lloyd as their son - which gives the film its title and plays a major part in the book - seems to exist for no reason other than to play a convoluted part in supplying an escape vehicle.
The shocks, when they come, are reasonably well handled, but frankly hacks knocking out psycho-of-the week TV movies do just as good a job.
Kubrick apologists go out of their way to excuse this film and come up with some astonishingly imaginative defences of it. I think there is a need to take a step back and recognise it for what it is - a dull, uninvolving, badly made horror film benefiting only from its big budget and technical merit.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 28, 2012 8:55 PM BST

Dracula (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection) [1931] (REGION 1) (NTSC) [DVD] [US Import]
Dracula (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection) [1931] (REGION 1) (NTSC) [DVD] [US Import]
Offered by passionFlix UK
Price: £4.24

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars creaky but ground breaking, 11 May 2004
A Romania vampire leaves his Carpathian home to seek fresh blood in the streets of London.
As Universal's original and ground-breaking monster movie, Dracula is a pivotal moment in cinema and of undoubted historical importance, but it never was a very good film and as a piece of entertainment is now pretty much unwatchable.
A few moments of lasting quality arrive in the opening sequence in Transylvania; a delirious mixture of eccentric painted backdrops, cobwebbed gothic sets and moody expressionist lighting. Tod Browning's otherwise flat direction briefly rises to the occasion; his camera prowling among the undead as they rise from their cellar tombs to play cat and mouse with hapless estate agent Dwight Frye as he unwittingly secures the vampire's transfer to teeming London. Lugosi's performance may seem pantomime now, but he has such a magnificently evil, corpulent presence that it's easy to see how he remains the definitive screen Count.
Unfortunately, once the action moves to England things go downhill rapidly. Bram Stoker's source novel is largely jettisoned and the film degenerates into a stilted drawing-room melodrama, all too obviously cribbed from the stage version where Lugosi originally cut his teeth, so to speak. This probably suited the constraints of budget and sound technology in those early talky days, but it kills the film stone dead, with acting, plotting and dialogue that would barely survive a modern end of term school production.
One for film buffs only; though the film's influence and landmark importance must be respected.

Donnie Darko [DVD] [2002]
Donnie Darko [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £1.48

10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the rabbit in the hat, 11 May 2004
This review is from: Donnie Darko [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Film-makers are becoming quite proficient at making cult movies. The template has been set for many years now and clever directors know how to push the right buttons in order to create the pre-requisite product. Cult movie as formula? Yes, I’m afraid so. The rules, largely dominated in recent years by those two resoundingly dedicated cultists Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, go something along the following lines.

Alienated hero, usually young, misunderstood and a bit disturbed
Typical suburban location which somehow doesn’t feel right
Weird unexplained happenings
Numerous ironic movie references
Jumbled plot structure, enigmatic outcomes
Quirky dialogue on familiar pop-culture references
Casting of familiar character actors or former stars in off-beat roles

Donnie Darko has all of the above cult totems. The work of first-time writer/director Richard Kelly, it would be unfair to describe it as derivative cult-movie fare, but there is something more than a little calculating about it, as if Kelly knew from the off the kind of market he wanted to hit and the levers he needed to pull to get there.

So you get the moody, weird kid in therapy (played by Jake Gyllenhaal); his laid-back but surprisingly Republican parents (for no obvious reason the film is set in the run-up to the 1988 Presidential election); the hip young teacher (Drew Barrymore); the smooth but repugnant self-help guru (Patrick Swayze, trying to take the Travolta route back to stardom?) and many other weirdo’s and misfits. All of these characters are designed to be markedly different and bounce off our hero in a role-call of mannered performances and schematic encounters.

Donnie sleepwalks, is on medication, has anger problems and is warned by a strange rabbit creature that the world will end in 28 days. He survives a huge jet engine falling from nowhere onto his house and is encouraged by the rabbit creature to wreck some acts of vandalism for undefined purposes which none-the-less lead to specific revelations. He begins to have hallucinations, to become engrossed in theories of time-travel, to fall in love with a new girl on the block, to confide in his psychiatrist and get into increasing amounts of trouble at school. All of this while on a clear rundown to the 28 day deadline when some cataclysmic horror will inevitably happen.

Kelly may be following the cult formula but for a fist-time director he manages to do it confidently and keep the viewer mostly interested and intrigued until the final 20 minutes when his script starts to fall apart and meaning gets blurred. I think it’s to do with fate, coincidence and sacrifice; which was what ‘Signs’ was also ultimately about, wasn’t it?

Kelly may or may not be one to watch. The trend of cult formula is one slowly but surely becoming unwatchable.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones [DVD] [2002]
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Hayden Christensen
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.00

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ho hum!, 4 May 2004
This often spectacular but frequently mundane series entry is only partially, and very belatedly, better than its predecessor The Phantom Menace, 1999s financially successful but critically mauled return of the Star Wars saga.

For about two-thirds of its lengthy running time Clones is just as big a yawn. Lucas’s flat direction has not improved and co-writer Jonathan Hales shows no positive influence on the leaden screenplay. The film only really scores in the last half hour or so when the full weight of the formidable Industrial Light and Magic sfx machine guns into top gear and some welcome pace and colour is injected into proceedings.

Anakin Skywalker, the annoying, cherubic kid has mercifully gone. Unfortunately he has been replaced by Anakin the pouting, moody, petulant youth; displaying symptoms of aggression, paranoia and control-freakery that would have him head-hunted by New Labour in another part of the universe. Strangely, his not-so-wise Jedi masters do not seem over-worried by these disturbing traits and – even more astonishingly – brainy senatorial babe Padme (showing little signs of the age-difference so obvious in Menace) actually fancies the pants of this self-obsessed little bully.

These new Star Wars entries certainly are curious beasts – state of the art technical marvels on one level, yet incredibly old fashioned in their filmic style, scripting and acting. At times its like watching those old vistavision sword and sandal epics of the 50s, when directors - baffled by what to do with this strange new format - simply rooted their actors to strategic points of the frame and allowed them to pontificate at each other across endless minutes of uninterrupted master shot.

Lucas remains of this old school. Obsessed by turning all his Star Wars movies into one cohesive saga, he is on record as saying that he wants them all to have a consistent visual style; which means of course that they basically have to be filmed to the conventions of 1976, when the first one started rolling in Tunisia. Seminal modern special effects dropped in on stiff and stately wide-screen frames produce a curiously contrary effect, making these new films look oddly like the special edition versions of the original trilogy Lucas knocked out a few years ago.

Is Lucas entirely blind to how jaw-droppingly dull so many of his scene’s are? Scripts this hokey, full of expositional dialogue and wooden acting need prodding into life with something other than establishing shots and routine PoV close-ups. Look at the way Peter Jackson handles similar scenes in his Lord of the Rings movies, using multiple cut-aways and swift editing to establish tensions, conflicts and subtexts that may have nothing to do with the dialogue but give otherwise pedestrian scenes added depth and meaning. You get nothing like that with Lucas: actors hit their marks, robotically say their lines and that’s it – pack up and wipe to the next matter-of-fact scene devoid of subtlety or nuance.

There’s a laziness and conceit to Lucas’s approach; an impression that he believes he can get by on enormous budgets and advanced ILM technology without having to worry about such trifling matters as imaginative direction, well-rounded characters, sprightly dialogue or an interesting story.

On this occasion, he manages to build up to a final third in which some genuine excitement and panache raise the film up a couple of notches. The desert planet on which the final battle takes place has a welcome sense of other-worldliness and occasionally a rare whiff of technical flare flashes hurriedly past. Christopher Lee, an actor who will never be dwarfed by special effects, is on hand to display a decent bit of villainy as only he can. Then of course there’s Yoda, digitally freed from the arm of Frank Oz and able to run amok with a light sabre in a way that is worth the admission money on its own.

You come out of the theatre suitably deafened and blinded; but reflection gives this dour, witless film little credence. Lucas may well be raking in the cash again, but the growing impression that this is a creatively limited film maker riding his luck is now practically cemented.

No Title Available

9 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brave Mel, but just too much, 4 May 2004
The story of Jesus’ last day on earth, from his capture at the Gethsemane to his trial, torture and ultimate crucifixion.

This brutal take on biblical accounts is undoubtedly the most controversial and visceral account of Christ yet put on screen. Director Mel Gibson, a devout Catholic, has a clear, stark purpose to his film – to deliver a graphic, unflinching, full-on account of the horrors delivered upon Christ on his last day, as his foreseen and accepted sacrifice to humankind.

There is no attempt to entertain here; the film is remorseless and pitiless in its depiction of human brutality. In the whole history of cinema it is unlikely that there has ever been such an sustained demonstration of violence administered to one man; and that it should occur in the ultimate religious story makes it all the more shocking.

While it is possible to admire Gibson’s intentions it is difficult not to conclude that he has gone over the top with his approach. The violence is so unfettered, so unrelenting, that one begins to question how one man could possibly have withstood such abuse up to and including the crucifixion. And when you begin to question the realism of what you see so you begin to question the wisdom of the director’s choices.

Gibson’s take on the story is, slightly ironically, a deeply conventional approach. This is straight from the gospels, no questions asked and no attempt at any kind of trendy revisionism. The film plays out – as its title suggests – along the straightforward lines of the Stations of the Cross; essentially chapters on Christ’s path to crucifixion and resurrection.

My problems with the film start with the scourging at the pillar. The sequence must last at least 20 minutes, starting with an appalling beating by sticks, which is bad enough. Gibson teases us that this may be enough, but then allows his persecutors to move on to heavy-duty spiked whips, flaying the body mercilessly until what is left is little more than gouged meat.

To put it bluntly, at the end of this sequence Christ looks more like Freddie Kruger than the world’s ultimate religious icon. And here is the problem; despite actor Jim Caviezel’s best efforts, from this point on he looks more like a movie special-effect or a horror film ghoul. It puts a distance between audience and man and starts to resemble the worst excesses in gratuitous cinema violence, even though I am convinced this was never Gibson’s intention.

The second problem, directly related to this, is that you start to seriously doubt that any man could have survived such a savage beating. Surely anyone flayed to such an extent would have quickly bled to death if nothing else? And anyone familiar with Christianity knows that the suffering has a long way to go yet. And go on it does, through crowning of thorns, endless beatings along the road to Calvary, breaking of limbs, nailing to a cross and slow agonising death through crucifixion.

The relentlessness of the violence, the leering, unforgiving brutality of the Roman guards and Jewish High Priests, eventually becomes numbing. Long before the end the introduction of some restraint and reflection might have more effectively served the director’s purpose. We would certainly by then have got the message about Christ’s suffering, and some proper contextualising about him - his beliefs, teachings, influence and political importance - would surely have delivered a broader and more balanced film than the brief flashbacks allowed. But, give Gibson his due, he sets his course and sticks to it unswervingly. I’m just not so sure it works after a while, that’s all.

Ultimately, this is a film that connects on a purely emotional level and each one of us will react to it in a different way. If you walk out fully appreciating the suffering Christ went through on our behalf and feel more spiritually invigorated for it then this film has probably fulfilled its purpose.

If you walk out having been titillated by a visualisation of extreme human violence – as some of this film’s mass audience undoubtedly will - then Gibson has spectacularly failed in his intent.

And if you walk out simply numbed and confused, as I was, then I suspect this best reflects the intellectual muddle which this brave but misguided film represents.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [2003] [DVD]
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [2003] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Offered by Champion Toys
Price: £2.50

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars come on Sean, act your age!, 1 May 2004
In 1899, a madman possessed of advanced weaponry is hell-bent on creating a world war. A band of Victorian literary figures are brought together to spoil his plans.
Utterly ludicrous, brain-dead nonsense dumbed down even from its comic book origins to create a dogs-dinner of mindless action sequences, laughable geography and ham-fisted allusions to real history.
Our seven heroes are Alan Quartermain, H Rider-Haggard's African hunter; Oscar Wilde's answer to eternal youth Dorian Gray; HG Wells' Invisible Man (now for some reason a Cockney wide-boy as opposed to a scientist); RL Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (the latter more like the Hulk); Bram Stoker's Dracula heroine Mina Harker (an occasional vampire, which she never was in the book); Jules Verne's Captain Nemo (now an Indian nobleman) and, strictly for the American market, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer.
It must be a total mystery to the teenage mall-rats which this fiasco is marketed at who any of these characters are, and the filmmakers supply little in the way of answers or references. They are simply treated as quasi-superheroes of no specific origin or background, brought together for the sketchiest of purposes and turned loose among a barrage of ambitious but not particularly well executed special effects. And whoever imagined Dorian Gray or Tom Sawyer as superheroes? - I mean come on!
The real problem with this movie is that the makers obviously felt they could come up with any old piece of preposterous nonsense as a excuse for a fight or spectacular effect and that somehow a coherent, watchable entertainment would miraculously blend together from all the odds and ends. Victorian motor transport? Lets build a big kick-ass car that looks like the batmobile and races like a Ferrari. But who built it and who in 1899 could even drive it? The Nautilus submarine? Ok, let's make it a thousand feet long and look like a giant sabre. I doubt if you can build thousand-foot submarines now never mind a hundred years ago, and as for the aquatic practicalities of the design, lets not even go there.
Most comic-book movie adaptations these days are treated with a degree of respect and at least a rudimentary effort to ground them in reality. Spider-Man spent half its running time painstakingly establishing its heroes metamorphosis; X-Men ingeniously developed a credible racial tension between humans and mutants and even the failed Hulk deserves some credit in setting up a background of child-abuse and psychological trauma. But LXG's characters and situations are about as dim as the minds of their producers and are, inevitably, an insult to their distinguished origins. Cruel fates can be played when literary copyright runs out, that's for sure.
The whole concept is a mess from start to finish. If you want to create a purely Victorian adventure why then go to any length possible to take it away from its period environment and make it look like any other high-tech modern sc-fi flick? The plot simply makes no sense and at one point in the middle of the movie it is quite literally declared redundant. The audience are expected to be ignorant enough to accept that a submarine the size of a luxury liner is somehow able to get through the narrow canals of Venice. Venice itself is comprehensively destroyed by CGI only to be declared saved because St Mark's Square alone is still standing at the end. The villain puts himself in mortal peril to reveal his real identity to our heroes for no reason whatsoever. I could go on and on.....
As for the cast, Sean Connery who plays Quartermain and also executive produced has to take the brunt of the blame. What an actor of his age and pedigree is doing in bilge-water like this is almost beyond reason. One suspects that Sean is rather proud of still being able to front big-budget effects movies at his age, but please, there are limits. And to think that he turned down Gandalf in Lord of the Rings for this! That fact, one suspects, will be the ultimate footnote this film makes on Connery's career.

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