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Saving Grace [2000] [DVD]
Saving Grace [2000] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Brenda Blethyn
Price: £3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Idea - Terrible Ending, 27 April 2015
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This review is from: Saving Grace [2000] [DVD] (DVD)
This film had the potential to be a minor classic like Waking Ned Devine but either did not try hard enough or tried too hard. A large part of the blame must belong to co-star, co-writer, co-producer Craig Ferguson who is not as charming or as talented as he thinks he is. Brenda Blethyn does well and there is a good supporting cast and a picturesque setting but it is all rather flimsy and not as funny as it might have been. The romantic subplot is fairly predictable and seems to have been included primarily to pad out the film's running time. The other romance - between Blethyn and a foreign drug baron - is simply ludicrous.

It all starts all well enough with a decent if not overly original premise but halfway in the whole thing starts to slide downhill. The film makers appear to think that silliness is the same as comedy. They then write themselves into a corner when they seem unable to come up with a logical or even plausible conclusion to the plot. So they bring in a ridiculous ending from way out in left field that is frankly embarrassing to watch. The result is a wasted opportunity that no one should have to watch more than once.

The Sixties [DVD]
The Sixties [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks (Exec Producer)
Price: £17.50

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting series - up to a point, 24 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Sixties [DVD] (DVD)
I was looking forward to this series and decided to buy the DVD rather than watch it on television one episode at a time with all the adverts. So it was somewhat disappointing to find that the DVDs contain all the ad breaks. At regular intervals throughout each episode, the series logo comes up, fades away then comes up again just as it would before and after each ad break? Would it really have been so difficult to edit these annoying interruptions out?

As for the series itself, it is an interesting enterprise that probably required more than just ten episodes to do the Sixties justice. In some ways, it was more interesting to note what was left out. Some fairly major incidents are barely mentioned or skimmed over which suggests that the makers of the series simply had too much material to squeeze into their allotted time. More than once, a subject was being explored then there was one of those ad breaks after which an entirely different topic was begun. Several major events of the decade are given in-depth coverage - the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, civil rights - but too many others are merely mentioned in passing. An entire episode is devoted to television in the Sixties but the movies of that decade are completely ignored. It seems strange to discuss the popular culture of that time without any reference to films such as Easy Rider and The Graduate. Similarly, the fashions are mostly overlooked - the word "miniskirt" is never uttered once. I suppose it is too much to expect a single television series to adequately cover such an exciting and incident filled decade.

Some of the archive footage is fascinating and there is much I have not seen before. I was a teenager in the United States in the Sixties and seeing brief clips of old shows and broadcasters was a genuine nostalgia trip. The contributions of the various talking heads were variable - presumably Tom Hanks was only allowed to give his opinion on several matters because he was one of the producers. There was also a kind of underlying politically correct subtext to much of the series. Many of the comments were almost condescending in their attitude towards the ideas and philosophies of the time. I also wondered why it was felt necessary to airbrush the naughty bits of fleetingly seen hippies. It was indicative of how selective the makers of the series were being. In some cases, it did not seem to be as much an accurate depiction of the Sixties as a view of what they wished the decade had been like.

All in all, it was an interesting series without being totally satisfying. It may be a good overview for someone who did not live through those years. Perhaps it was simply too ambitious a project to squeeze into ten episodes. I was also surprised that better use was not made of the music of the era although that was probably because of the cost of royalties. In some ways, the series seemed somewhat budget conscious. Certainly the DVD package is nothing to get excited about for the price. I'm glad I watched the series and will probably watch it again but I will continue to shake my head at the missed opportunity to do The Sixties justice.

Rotten to the Core [DVD]
Rotten to the Core [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anton Rodgers
Price: £4.90

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Enough Caper, 24 May 2014
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This review is from: Rotten to the Core [DVD] (DVD)
This is one of those amusing little British Sixties crime comedies along the lines of Two Way Stretch and The Wrong Arm of the Law in which the criminals and the law are equally inept. It was a product of the usually reliable Boulting Brothers and was clearly intended as a vehicle for Peter Sellers who had, by this time, gone Hollywood. A very young looking Anton Rodgers tries his best but few had the flair for dressing up in disguises and using funny voices that Sellers had. Fortunately, the film is carried by a more than capable and experienced supporting cast including Kenneth Griffith and Dudley Sutton. Eric Sykes is especially amusing as a flatfoot turned private eye but he is strangely given very little to do in the second half of the film. The luscious Charlotte Rampling is the obligatory dolly bird, always looking gorgeous even though her voice was apparently dubbed.

Turn the sound off or fast forward through the opening titles to avoid one of the absolute worst theme songs of all time. After that, the film chugs along at a nice pace with no real surprises and producing lots of smiles rather than belly laughs. The movie was, of course, filmed in black and white which will no doubt disappoint younger viewers but comedies such as this would actually have suffered from being made in colour. There was an old Hollywood maxim about colour slowing down comedies and they were right.

The picture and sound are sharp and clean and the film is presented in a widescreen ratio. As usual with Network releases, there are no subtitles or extras and the DVD comes in a slimline box. If nothing else, Rotten to the Core is an enjoyable diversion for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2014 7:07 PM BST

by Randy Mixter
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars For Friends Of The Author Only, 28 Feb. 2012
This review is from: THE BOYS OF NORTHWOOD (Paperback)
I don't know why this book is listed on Amazon UK as its appeal is very limited to people who lived in Baltimore, Maryland forty or so years ago. It is assumed the reader will know all about the places mentioned as the author merely drops names. Similarly, there are no real characters or stories.

Basically, this is a wallow in nostalgia for the author in a series of lazily written memories about his unremarkable adolescence, all arranged in no particular order. No doubt people who know the author will find something to enjoy as he rambles on. But anyone else is likely to feel left out and to go in search of more engaging material.

Unfortunately, the ease of self-publishing has produced a plague of books that otherwise would never have advanced past the manuscript stage. Memoirs used to be broken down into two sorts: those written by someone famous or those written by an ordinary person who was involved in something extraordinary. This book is neither. It is strictly an example of what used to be so rightly referred to as vanity publishing.

TCM Greatest Classic Films: Broadway Musicals [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
TCM Greatest Classic Films: Broadway Musicals [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £7.81

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fully Deserves 5 Stars!, 16 Feb. 2012
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Another excellent DVD set from TCM featuring two great MGM musicals (Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brdes For Seven Brothers), one pretty good one (Annie Get Your Gun), and one that is slightly better than ok (Show Boat). All for a decent price - you could easily spend more on a DVD of Kiss Me Kate alone. A wonderful addition to anyone's collection of great movie musicals.

So why did another reviewer only give this set one star? Because the other reviewer was too thick to understand what Region 1 DVDs are, despite the explanation by Amazon on the listing. It's unfortunate that such people are able to bring down the rating of such a fine product as a result of their own shortcomings. Hopefully, this five star rating will help to balance that out.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 20, 2012 4:53 PM GMT

Tcm Greatest Classic Films: Astaire & Rogers [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Tcm Greatest Classic Films: Astaire & Rogers [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £7.77

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astaire and Rogers Deserve 5 Stars, 15 Feb. 2012
An excellent set of four classic Astaire/Rogers musicals in glorious black and white. Not only do they contain marvellous music and dancing, but the elegant Art Deco costumes and sets are an additional delight. A great starter package for anyone who doesn't have Fred and Ginger in their collection.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a Region 1 DVD set. That means that if you want to view these films in the UK, you will need a multi-region player. I know that Amazon has already pointed this out, but one buyer seems not to have noticed and, because of their own mistake, given this set a lowly and undeserved one star rating. So this review is an attempt to counteract that. A couple more positive reviews should give these DVDs the rating they deserve.

The Notorious Landlady [DVD]
The Notorious Landlady [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kim Novak
Price: £4.10

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant enough, 5 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Notorious Landlady [DVD] (DVD)
It's nice to see films like this being made available on DVD. Not a great film by any means but certainly a reasonably amusing one and interesting if only for the stars involved. Jack Lemmon was in his comic prime before he began to take himself too seriously; Kim Novak was at her sultry best (her scene in the bath is the one image that stayed with me over the years); Fred Astaire is okay if somewhat miscast; and there is a stalwart British supporting cast with Lionel Jeffries being the obvious standout.

The film is a kind of comedy/mystery set in pre-Swinging Sixties London. Occasionally, the convoluted mystery gets in the way of the comedy but veteran director Richard Quine does his best to keep the proper balance. The script tends to be the weak link and I suspect there were more writers involved than the credited Larry Gelbart and Blake Edwards. In fact, I also suspect it was Edwards' contributions that produced the uneven nature of the script, especially the slapstick chase scene at the end which seems to belong to another film altogether.

Still, there is much to enjoy in The Notorious Landlady, especially for fans of Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak. It could have been better - it could have been a lot worse. I was quite glad to see it again after all these years and will probably be tempted to have another look at it from time to time.

One more thing: The DVD case says the film is in colour. It's not - it's in glorious black and white which suits the style and setting of the film.

That Man from Rio:plays regions 1,2,3,4,5,6,ntsc~Jean-Paul Belmondo~Francoise Dorleac~Jean Servais~Adolfo Celi~Directed By Philippe De Broca..
That Man from Rio:plays regions 1,2,3,4,5,6,ntsc~Jean-Paul Belmondo~Francoise Dorleac~Jean Servais~Adolfo Celi~Directed By Philippe De Broca..
Offered by Seedhouse-Rare-Movies
Price: £10.99

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars C'est Magnifique!, 27 July 2011
The first foreign language film I ever saw was That Man From Rio and it was a great way to start. I went because it had been billed as being in the style of Hitchcock's North By Northwest. There are superficial similarities, but the French film is more than capable of being judged on its own merits - of which there are many. It certainly has its tongue farther in its cheek than Hitch ever imagined.

A great deal of the film's success is due to the charisma and sheer star quality of Jean-Paul Belmondo, then in his prime and thoroughly enjoying himself. He seems to be constantly on the move - running, jumping, climbing, fighting - pausing only to deliver a droll line of dialogue or to share a kiss with the delectable Francois Dorleac (sister of Catherine Deneuve and, in my opinion, far sexier).

The plot - some nonsense about lost treasure - begins in Paris, then takes a rollercoaster ride to Rio, the eerie cityscape of (then new) Brasilia, and on into the Amazon jungle. Cliche after cliche is employed and parodied - and done as well or better than in the subsequent Bond films. Through it all, Belmondo is the perfect comic book hero - dirty, confused, bloodied, but never out of breath and always triumphant.

After going for too many years without seeing this film, I am delighted to confirm that it has lost none of its fun or charm. I cannot praise Belmondo or director Philippe de Broca enough. And I can only lament that Francois Dorleac's career was cut so tragically short. This is a good way to remember her. That Man From Rio is a joy to watch and still one of the best comedy/thrillers ever made.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2012 1:44 PM GMT

The Twelve Chairs [DVD] [1970]
The Twelve Chairs [DVD] [1970]
Dvd ~ Ron Moody
Price: £5.83

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Classic, 21 Jun. 2011
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Not a typical Mel Brooks film, this was his second film as a director (after The Producers) and much more of a character and plot driven project than his later broad parodies. Based on a classic Russian novel and filmed in Yugoslavia, the look and feel of the film is wonderful (much better than Woody Allen's Love And Death). It would have been interesting if Brooks had carried on making films in this vein but, since this movie undeservably failed to find an audience, that was obviously not a commercially viable option. But it remains, in my opinion, one of Mel Brooks' best efforts with its dark humour and cynical edge and complete lack of coarse jokes.

The script is also by Brooks and is tight and keeps the plot moving at a good pace, mixing funny lines with bits of slapstick and occasional pathos. Brooks has given the film a happier ending than the original novel but since this is a comedy, that is no bad thing. The cast are a wild mixture of styles but, for the most part, seem to work well together. Ron Moody's obsessed aristocrat in a post-revolutionary world has flashes of his Fagin from Oliver but runs through a wealth of emotions like a pro. Frank Langella is handsome and looks every inch a typical movie hero even though he plays an amazingly unsympathetic character. Dom DeLuise mugs shamelessly which threatens to throw the film off-balance, but he mostly gets away with it. And Mel himself puts in a hilarious cameo near the beginning of the film just to prove that what follows is not to be taken too seriously.

I first saw this film in a nearly empty cinema when it was first released and loved it. So I am delighted that it is available on DVD and looking so good. In some ways, it has stood the test of time better than some other Mel Brooks film. It is not what used to be described as a "laff riot" but it is a funny and entertaining film which might just have a thoughtful subtext or two. Highly recommended.

Isadora [DVD]
Isadora [DVD]
Dvd ~ Vanessa Redgrave
Price: £17.63

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A free spirit ahead of her time..., 17 May 2011
This review is from: Isadora [DVD] (DVD)
The legend of Isadora Duncan seems to be gradually fading with time. But when this film was made in the 1960s, she was still very much a bright memory and her free-spirited approach to both life and her art struck a definite chord with the Love Generation. Seen today, it's still a fascinating glimpse into what was undoubtedly an eccentric and frustrating yet brilliant character.

The film is always beautiful to look at - the style seems to suggest that there were many similarities between the Twenties and the Sixties. I don't know about that, but the film has a splendid period feel. The gorgeous Croatian resort of Opatija was an inspired choice to represent the French Riviera of the Twenties. A lot of attention has been paid to all the detail. Too bad, therefore, that Maurice Jarre's music seems to reflect neither the era nor the character of Isadora - at least Bye Bye Blackbird provides an appropriate background.

Director Karel Reisz deserves much praise for making the enigmatic character of Isadora as accessible as he does. The script tries hard to illuminate her by concentrating on key events in her life rather than making a conventional biopic for this very unconventional person. But it constantly and somewhat needlessly jumps back and forth in time which is occasionally confusing. The concentration on Isadora is so absolute that the other people in her life come and go with barely a word of introduction or explanation. And in a film that concentrates as much on Isadora's love life as her dancing, her bisexuality is curiously ignored. Our view of Isadora is more impression than insight.

Even so, Vanessa Redgrave treats us to a remarkable performance - making Isadora as credible as she was outrageous. She is also surprisingly good in the dance sequences, some of which are quite stunningly staged. Redgrave's American accent may wander a bit, but she holds nothing back in baring Isadora's soul to us. It is a powerful performance.

All the other actors are truly just supporting. Cast against type, James Fox has a great time as the extravagent designer Gordon Craig. Jason Robards, by contrast, is permanently morose as millionaire Paris Singer. As the Russian poet who eventually marries Isadora, Ivan Tchenko is full of fire and vodka. Special mention should be made of John Fraser who plays Isadora's long-suffering secretary Roger. Fraser was a wonderful actor in some significant films in the Sixties (El Cid, Repulsion, Tunes of Glory) yet stardom somehow eluded him. He gives the second best performance in Isadora - an expertly judged mixture of devotion and exasperation.

But the film really belongs to Vanessa Redgrave and Karel Reisz. Together, they create many memorable moment. The best of these is when Isadora is dancing for an audience of Russians just after the Revolution. Suddenly, a power failure puts the lights out. Isadora is given a lantern and someone starts to sing. Soon everyone is singing and dancing an impormptu and emotional version of Kalinka. The scene captures Isadora's love of dance, the Russian soul, the universal appeal of art, and everything that is good about film. We are both touched and thrilled. It is too much to expect the film to be that good all the way through. But it's wonderful to see Isadora getting the remastered DVD release it so richly deserves.

Extra - One of the extras on the second disc is a film of Kenneth Macmillan's controversial ballet Isadora performed by the Royal Ballet. I assume this is the version broadcast on ITV in 1982. The Royal Ballet recently revived this ballet in a drastically shortened version but the full ballet has not been seen in many years (I saw it in 1983). It's an equally fascinating portrayal of Isadora and her life although it received quite mixed reviews. Its inclusion here is, for me at any rate, worth the price of the DVD.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2012 9:16 PM GMT

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