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Piotr Ney (Wroclaw)

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In Bruges [DVD] [2008]
In Bruges [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent debut and fine example of smart, modern cinema, 11 Nov. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In Bruges [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
In Bruges is an impressive feature length debut by playwright Martin McDonagh. Its spot-on pace sparkles with intelligent dialogue and black humour. Within minutes, I felt I knew the principal characters, Irish hitmen Ken and Ray (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell), for years, and felt drawn in like an invisible third protagonist to join them on their Leffe-fuelled strolls along the gothic canals.

The titular city functions more than a mere cinematographic backdrop. It evolves with the plot, becoming more otherworldly and menacing as the pitch of impending doom heightens, reaching its crescendo in the final scene as Ray stumbles into the living canvas of Bosch's Last Judgement.

It appears obligatory for smart movies these days to reference cult cinema, and In Bruges does contain several such nods, including a recurring homage to Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, itself referenced in the dialogue. This is does not unduly distract, merely reinforces McDonagh's anchorage in the fabric of unnerving European cinema.

Many will principally remember this movie for its laugh-out-loud surrealism, such as the ketamine-stoned, racist dwarf. Yet beneath the buoyant dialogue and memorable set pieces lies a convincing morality tale. The choices and questions effortlessly posed here are no less serious than those in more self-conscious and ponderous recent redemption tales. I actually found myself pausing the movie at one point to ask myself what I would do in a situation.

With Tarrantino firing blanks these days, I for one would be delighted to see McDonagh establish himself as the modern champion of smart, edgy cinema.

Dead Silence [DVD] [2007]
Dead Silence [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ryan Kwanten
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.25

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A wooden little dummy of a movie, 8 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Dead Silence [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
This film comes heavily tagged as "From the creators of `Saw'". Leaving any opinion on that particular franchise aside, it is best to assess this film on its own and very limited merits.

"Dead Silence" borrows heavily from a number of well known ghost, horror and slasher movies, but gives nothing back. One could facetiously imagine the "Saw" team wrapping up when someone said, "look I just found this ventriloquist dummy in the prop department and we still have a couple of days hire left on the equipment, why don't we knock off a quick film as a side project?". The paper thin script, even by the genre standards, could certainly have been improvised in-between takes.

Amazon's main review concludes that this is a "lighthearted horror film that won't traumatize as much as it makes one chuckle". There are several examples of "chuckle horror" movies, e.g. Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead, where tongue-in-cheekness is effectively blended with originality and creativity. This lazy effort is not one of these examples.

In summary, the acting is throwaway (with the possible exception of Donnie Wahlberg's amusing detective), the scenery is sub-Hammer, the horror hovers around Michael Jackson's Thriller level, and the final "twist" does not bear scrutiny at any level, it is simply derisible.

Like the main protagonist Billy the doll, this is a nasty, wooden little dummy of a movie.

Michael Palin's New Europe : Complete BBC Series [DVD]
Michael Palin's New Europe : Complete BBC Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Palin
Price: £12.30

63 of 74 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and lazy treatment of a fascinating semi-continent, 4 Mar. 2008
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Over last few years while living in Old Europe, I grew increasingly conscious of my family's Eastern European roots. I now take every opportunity to explore the lands and people previously familiar to me mostly from childhood stories. I have also with much interest followed Michael Palin's grand escapades since the very first episode of Around the World in 80 Days. With these two loci converging, I keenly anticipated his New Europe series. I was curious whether Palin would confirm my own impressions of the countries I already know, while offering additional insights and interpretations. Similarly, I hoped that he would provide insightful appetisers of the countries I have yet to visit, and help me prioritise my next few journeys. That's what a good travelogue should accomplish.

New Europe, to employ the label this series adopted, is a semi-continent of contrasts and contradictions, of a strident embrace of the future and its new possibilities, as well as a new insecurity and nostalgic clinging to recent past, no matter how painful and deceitful it actually was. Palin's series had an outstanding opportunity to illuminate these tensions, and give us a balanced analysis of our newly rediscovered neighbours.

It is sad that Palin's series fails to achieve this. It is badly let down both by its format and execution. There may be many effective ways of approaching the subject, but the "artificial vignette" style was a poor choice, lazily executed. Backed by the Palin powerful brand and BBC's enterprising resources, a team of researchers were presumably sent out months ahead to various East European capitals with the mission to arrange, typically,
1. a local twenty-something babe to welcome Palin and show him around,
2. a local "character" for Palin to interview ("make sure it's someone quirky and colourful") and,
3. a couple of equally quirky activities for Palin to self-depreciatingly engage in - you know the type, an "impromptu" invitation to get onstage with some performers, drive a steam train, and so on.

City visits often end with a "surprise" invitation by colourful locals for a singalong barbecue - to demonstrate that a typical extended family in New Europe consists of a band of pig roasting folk musicians, forever on the lookout for a lone foreigner to invite along (providing he has an international film crew in tow). Rather than destroy stereotypes, Palin and his team of researchers appear to go out of their way to reinforce them.

Palin visits a health spa and ends up "unexpectedly" sitting in a mudbath next to the current Miss World, who happens to have the next day or two free to accompany him around the city. Pleasant experience for Michael I'm sure and a coup for the research team, but how did this advance our understanding of New Europe?

The formula is tired, predictable and above all dishonest. This side of WWF, once an audience start feeling duped, they rapidly loose empathy with a programme and its presenter. I watched three episodes at random, and I grew increasingly frustrated. The interviews were superficial, with Palin politely asking shallow and uninspired questions. There was no real engagement and debate, no trying to unravel the real web of tension that is New Europe, just Palin majoring in his role of the slightly awkward but polite uncle at a family wedding.

As for the Boratesque historical and cultural insights - hey, we are not that dumb! In these days of budget airlines, one can safely assume that much of Palin's audience have themselves walked across Wenceclas Bridge, suntanned on the Adriatic and/or skied in Bulgaria. We know about the Berlin Wall, many of us have pieces at home. We watched Ceausescu's fall on TV in 1989. Some of us can even recall the essence of the Yalta Agreement. Yet these are the places and events presented by Palin like he's exposing some astounding novelties, and even these are dealt with superficially. This felt painfully patronising at times. Even in our soundbite times, BBC's target audience can surely cope with more substance.

There is little useful travel advice. I do not feel I got to know the places Palin visited any better, and I picked up precious little that would help equip me further for my travels. I cannot replicate most of Palin's exploits and encounters, as I do not have a team of researchers working months ahead to organise these.

The series fizzled out on a Baltic beach. I was expecting Palin to finally synthesise his trip, to distil some interpretation and present his decomposition of the complexities of New Europe. Here was his chance to balance the superficiality of his "artificial vignettes" with some gravitas. I almost physically held my breath, willing him to turn things around with a closing piece of insightful analysis. No chance. After a couple of slender platitudes, Palin turned his back on the camera and walked along the Baltic beach. As another helicopter shot funded by TV licence payers panned across, the question that must have resonated in a thousand households was "is that all?!?".

If I sound bitter, it is because after decades of suffering from dictatorships, hardships, discontinuity and uncertainty, New Europe deserves much better that this superficial, artificial, formulaic and above all lazy treatment.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2009 10:41 AM BST

The Mating Game
The Mating Game

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilled out style, 22 Sept. 2006
This review is from: The Mating Game (Audio CD)
I have recently "bulk bought" several chillout albums from Amazon to listen to mainly on headphones at work - Air, Blue States, Zero 7, etc.

However, this album is one of my favourites - it simply oozes style, lots of sweeping strings, breathy female vocals, sometimes a bit of swing dropped in. At times it reminded me of Zero 7, sometimes De Phazz (especially on the last track).

For any fans of quality chillout music, this album is a must-hear.

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