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Radiant Rose (from a rose-red 1960 Cadillac: solar-powered)

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Lincoln [DVD]
Lincoln [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Day-Lewis
Price: £4.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile, 7 Feb 2014
This review is from: Lincoln [DVD] (DVD)
As a non-American, the story of Lincoln abolishing slavery was not one I was familiar with from schooldays. It was odd to see a time when politics was just for white men. And those men thought they were living in a democracy.

On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln seemed genuinely interested in what ordinary people had to say.

I have read that Mrs Lincoln’s dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley (played by Gloria Reuben) had a far more interesting life than was explored here. She started out a slave, repaid the woman who bought her freedom and became a businesswoman. There is a bit of the "white saviour" narrative about this film. Were Mr Spielberg to read this review (lol), that would be the one thing I would want to say to him.

Being Radiant Rose, I watched this because James Spader was in it (yes, playing a somewhat sleazy person. Although, political fixer, so what do you expect?). His performance was good, but his role was smaller than I had hoped.

It's almost superfluous to say how impressed I was by Daniel Day Lewis’s performance. I forgot he wasn’t an American. Or a real president. I had heard mixed things about Sally Field's performance but thought one of her scenes was very good. Mindful of Amazon’s “no spoilers” rule, I won’t say which one.

Nor will I disclose the scene relating to Lincoln’s murder was so moving even though even I knew enough American history to see it coming.

The film is not something I would normally watch. I viewed it in two sittings; it wasn't something which "glued me" to my seat. However, it was well-made and there was some variety in the different scenes.

The Music of Chance [DVD]
The Music of Chance [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Spader

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Crafted Puzzle, 7 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Music of Chance [DVD] (DVD)
This is a great film for people who don't like their films to be predictable. This is so unpredictable that, even at the end, there is a lot of uncertainty about what has actually happened. Note how carefully I am observing Amazon's "no spoilers" rule!

I have not read the original book by Paul Auster, but Mr Auster has a cameo role in the film. I thought he and the lead actor, Mandy Patinkin (it's short for Mandel) look somewhat similar, and maybe that too tells us something about chance and coincidence. I'm pretty sure that it is also about male bonding (it is very low on female characters.) This isn't the sort of film I normally watch, and I wouldn't have watched it had James Spader not been in it, but I was intrigued. It is beautifully put together.

A particular highlight is when Mr Patinkin's character sings one verse of something which we used to sing at school.

My favourite accessory is the tiara.

Crash [DVD]
Crash [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Spader

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reckless, but not Wretched, 7 Feb 2012
This review is from: Crash [DVD] (DVD)
This film is creepy and in some ways both shocking and sanitised. By coincidence, I happened to watch this for the first time during the same week I saw an "X-Files" episode about the aftermath of a car accident. The latter contained more gruesome injuries and more pain. There was also a frightening plot about the afterlife.

Contrast this with James Ballard, the hero/anti-hero of "Crash" (as opposed to the original James Ballard, ie the late J G Ballard, who wrote the original novel). Although Ballard suffers scarring, he still looks good. Okay, he is played by James Spader, so it would be hard for him not to ... but there is a lot they could have done with prosthetics if they had wanted to alarm the audience. Although Ballard's leg injury causes him to limp, the pain from it does not appear to blight his life or diminish his sexual appetite.

And (the fictional) Ballard clearly does not think he is on his way to eternal damnation, however much damage he might cause to other road users. (The initial crash which lands him in hospital was caused by sheer carelessness on his part, and a man is killed.)

The book also contains a great many references to various bodily fluids and the film does not reflect this.

I find it ironic that a lot of the controversy surrounding the film centred on the fact that Rosanna Arquette's character, Gabrielle, had leg injuries but was depicted having sex. Why on Earth was this any more "offensive" than anything else? It is not as if her character is portrayed as suffering any mental impairment which would affect her ability to give consent.

I would have given this four out of 5, but I am taking off a point because of the dog. I don't think they used the corpse of a real dog, but (if this is so), Cronenberg should have stated that in the end credits.

As a rough guide, if you weren't repulsed by "Trainspotting", you should be fine watching this.

Despite all this, I found scenes from the film staying in my memory, and not in an unpleasant way. The music, by Howard Shore, is probably the most undeniably brilliant part of the film. It somehow combines something very organic with a very mechanical sound. It made me think, "This is what the heartbeat of a cyborg would sound like".

At the end of the day, this is a work of fiction. There were many stunt drivers employed (quite possibly more than just those listed in the credits), because the cast didn't actually want to get injured in real life.

The Watcher [DVD] [2001]
The Watcher [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ James Spader

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Switcher-Offer, 7 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Watcher [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
I'm not saying that you should switch channels if this comes on TV. I am just saying that I didn't like it. I know there are some people who completely disagree. My feeling is that the problems were caused by the script, so I blame the director for not picking a better script. Most of the acting is good, although I am not sure about Keanu.

I like the basic idea of a central character who overcomes serious health problems. And when the scene when Joel (James Spader) is suffering from a migraine is harrowing and convincing. And the make-up artists are to be congratulated on making Joel look so pale and haggard. He seems at least a decade older than Keanu's character, although the real age gap between the actors is less than half that.

But then the serial killer Joel is chasing comes back into his life, and it is as he had never been ill. Compare this to the TV series "Monk", where the central character solves crimes although his mental health problems never go away.

I am unconvinced by the argument that Joel needed to pursue the serial killer who killed the love of his life in order to give his life meaning. This seems to be a shallow attempt to make the story seem more deep. If anything, he needed the love of his life.

I am not a fan of films where women do not fight back or who (like Marisa Tomei's character) need to be rescued by a man. The nearest any of the women get to fighting back is the woman who hits her attacker with a large radio-cassette player. It must be the only music player in the world made from papier mâché. It fails to stop him for a single moment. I've been hit in the face with a human hand, and there was a lump above my eye. Keanu's character doesn't even bruise.

Even the background music is annoying, some kind of pastiche of a TV theme. This seems out of place in a film about a killer preying on women.

The product placement is really obvious. I am told that there is product placement in many films. And yet this is the only one in which I have ever really noticed it. What does that tell you?

But the very worst thing is the complete lack of plot twists. We know from the start who we think the serial killer is ... and we are right. We don't know why he became a murderer and we never get a clue as to what is going on in his mind.

There is one gigantic explosion at one point, and that seemed like a massive waste of petrol. The whole film seemed like a waste of time and talent.

Pretty In Pink [VHS]
Pretty In Pink [VHS]
Offered by pkeylock
Price: £4.96

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radiant Red-head, 7 Feb 2012
This review is from: Pretty In Pink [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I am very fond of this film. It has flaws, some of them glaring, but it is amusing and watchable throughout.

It is unusual for a teen drama, in that Molly Ringwald, who played the central character (Andie), actually was approximately the same age as the character at the time of filming. Let's face it, the people who make these things do have a penchant for casting 20-somethings as high school students.

Although I was a teenager in 1986, when the film came out, I somehow didn't see it till 2003. Better late than never. (I too am pretty in pink, as well as being radiant in rose and brilliant in blue.)

I like the soundtrack. I found the dialogue interesting and witty.

This film is more about atmosphere than plot. It centres on whether Andie will go to her high school prom after her boyfriend ditches her. Many viewers have played "snog, marry, avoid" regarding the three men/boys who are interested in Andie.

Andrew McCarthy plays Blaine, or maybe it is spelt Blane. B is bland and he seems to be easily persuaded to do what his friends and family tell him what to do. Hence his ditching of Andie.

Her friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) is lovely, but she clearly loves the Duck in an utterly platonic way.

Steff (James Spader)is outwardly gorgeous. Well, he looks like James Spader, so that goes without saying. But Steff is obnoxious and snobbish. My advice would be to marry Duckie, snog Steff (but ignore anything he said before or after) and to utterly ignore Bla(i)ne.

There are lots of good moments, eg Duckie's trick cycling (well done to whichever stunt performer it was!)

Questions which arise are: why does the film suggest that Iona (Annie Potts) needed to tone down her outfits in order to be lucky in love? In my humble opinion, the final outfit she wears, which was presumably very fashionable in the mid-80s, is the most ridiculous outfit of all.

Also, I take issue with the idea that Andie and her father (played by Harry Dean Stanton) are poor. They have less wealth than the families of most of her school friends (she won a scholarship). The disparity in income is clearly an important issue for Andie. But Andie has a car and her own telephone (a landline, of course) and a sewing machine. It could be so much worse - even in the USA.

I also wonder if it was good manners for Andie to cut up Iona's old prom dress in order to combine it with the pink dress her father bought for her.

But I'm glad that - oh, amazon, may I reveal whether or not she shows up, or does that violate your spoiler policy? Am I allowed to say anything about the ending, which was apparently a re-write filmed much later than the rest of the film?

I will say that I absolutely hated the dress which Andie made for the prom. Not because of Andie's colouring (red hair/candyfloss pink dress), but because no dress deserves to be that shape.

Shorts [DVD] [2009]
Shorts [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Leslie Mann
Price: £2.71

4.0 out of 5 stars 'Snot Bad, 7 Feb 2011
This review is from: Shorts [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
As regular readers of Radiant Rose's reviews will know, I will watch anything with James Spader in it. This loyalty, however, was put to the test when I learnt of his decision to appear in a film where he would be wearing fake ears. Plus, there is a snot monster in it. Not really my sort of thing. At all.

But ... a fan is a fan. And I was pleasantly surprised by this. Fortunately, the snot monster looked very generic and didn't really remind me of nasal contents, and the part with the bird dropping wasn't too foul either. I have seen far more gross body fluid jokes in some teen-movie spoofs.

The film held my attention. I passed on the DVD to a family member, and have heard that it is a big hit with seven year old boys.

I loved the featurette where Robert Rodriguez showed how he and his children had made the rough version of the film (to show to financial backers). (The other featurette, with the baking, seems a little out of place.) Three of Rodriguez's children, Rebel, Racer and Rocket, act in the finished film.

All in all, I would watch this again. Particularly if I were babysitting.

Less Than Zero [VHS]
Less Than Zero [VHS]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hazy Shades, 7 Feb 2011
This review is from: Less Than Zero [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Please excuse the pun, but I feel there are definitely some Less-ons to be learnt from this film.

Lesson 1: It is a mistake for film makers to assume that any scenes involving money, sex and drugs will automatically hold our attention.

Lesson 2: Drugs are bad, y'all.

Lesson 3: It is very hard for viewers to like a film when we are not given a particular reason to like any of the characters. It seems to be just assumed that we will root for Clay (Andrew McCarthy) and Blair (Jami Gertz). And I didn't really care about them. I can look back after seeing the film and think, well, they acted quite ethically, but that's not really the same as feeling an emotional connection to them whilst viewing.

Lesson 4: Don't throw in pointless bits, such as the bikers passing on either side of the Corvette in which Clay and Blair are snogging. It is distracting.

It might have been wiser if the film had included a bit of a back story. We might have seen for ourselves what Julian (Robert Downey Junior) was like before drugs seized hold of his life. We might have got some kind of idea why he would actually have trusted Rip (James Spader) enough to borrow $50,000 from him. Spader effectively conveys Rip's superficial charm and essential soullessness. However, we never see him before his predatory nature becomes manifest. We never understand why anyone would trust him instead of throwing holy water at him and running for the hills.

I might have been interested in why Julian's venture into the entertainment industry (a record company named Tone Deaf) failed. Unless the answer was (a) he was an arrogant, rich teenager who hadn't a clue what he was doing or (b) he really was tone deaf.

I don't know whether the fault lies with the film adaptation or if these flaws are also present in the Bret Ellis Easton novel on which it is based. The film does NOT inspire me to find a copy of the book to find out. (I am informed that the character of Rip was toned down somewhat in the film.)

What did I like? Well, the scene in the red Corvette with the Christmas carols is amusing. The ending is more moving than it should be. I liked the Bangles' version of Paul Simon's song "Hazy Shade of Winter" and the Roy Orbison song during the credits.

That's about it. That really is. Unless you are on a mission to see the complete works of someone involved in the film, I'm not sure you should bother with it.

The good folk at Amazon won't allow me to give this film less than zero. They won't even permit a score of less than one. I am reserving the honour of one star for something really abysmal. So I reluctantly award this a two.

It deserves less. Or rather, since ratings stars are counted rather than measured, FEWER.

My favourite accessory was undoubtedly Rip's yellow mobile phone. It floats. It really does. If only manufacturers had continued to make them so reliable - social networking sites would not have been jammed with cries of "My phone drowned, please send me your number".

Wall Street [Special Edition] [1988] [DVD]
Wall Street [Special Edition] [1988] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charlie Sheen
Price: £2.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Stone, 7 Feb 2011
Most films reflect the era in which they were made. This can be a problem for films set in the past, or the future. Fortunately, the original "Wall Street" which has recently spawned a sequel, is a film both of and about the 1980s.

The nostalgia factor was cranked up by the fact this review of the film is based on an ancient ex-rental videotape. It is just so much a sign of its times. Make a list of what you expect from an 80s film and start ticking items off.

Mobile phones which now strike us as hilariously large? Tick. (Charlie Sheen's character Bud even uses a payphone, clearly not being important enough to own a mobile.)

Women confined to peripheral roles? Tick. (But at least their hair is as big as their roles are small.)

Cocaine, the opium of those who sought to rise above the masses? Tick.

James Spader as devious blonde yuppie? Tick.

The twin towers are, of course, intact in the opening shots featuring the New York skyline. Seeing really brings it home to me how much the world has changed since in less than quarter of a century.

The plot of the original "Wall Street" is quite widely known, and has been around so long that I assume I have a little lee-way regarding spoilers. Bud starts off as a humble telemarketer at some stockbroking firm. He becomes the protegé of the fairly-evil Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas). Gecko spouts famous lines such as "Money never sleeps" and, of course, "Greed is good".

Gecko and Bud unite against Gecko's English business rival, Sir Larry Wildman played by Terence Stamp.

I cannot quite work out what we are meant to make of Stamp's character's background. Did he inherit his title or receive it? His accent is extremely posh, but posh people would surely say "chap" rather than "bloke".

Are the names meant to be symbolic? Slithery gecko, wily fox, Wildman?

Director and co-writer Oliver Stone, besides having a tiny cameo as one of many stockbrokers, quite bluntly puts some of his own thoughts into Gecko's mouth. Gecko is quite open about the fact that capitalism does not necessarily reward merit. He knows some people are extremely rich because of inherited wealth instead of honest toil. Gecko himself did not inherit wealth: we learn that his father worked extremely hard for little financial reward, dying of a heart attack at the age of 49.

The father/son motif is fairly obvious, since the end of the film announces that it is dedicated to Stone's father Louis. Mr Stone was luckier than the fictional Gecko Senior and lived to the age of 74. Bud's father Carl is played by Sheen's real life father, Martin Sheen. Bud's mother has very little to say. The 1980s were not American feminists' best decade: it is perhaps not surprising that most of the stockbrokers are male, with female secretaries jokingly classed in terms of their looks. But the marginalisation of Bud's mother is harder to comprehend.

A turning point in the film is when Carl Fox has a heart attack. Unlike Gecko's father, he survives. Bud's attempt to help his father is what brings about his own downfall. But he does take Gordon down with him, although I am not sure whether that shows that he has developed a social conscience or just accepted a plea bargain.

I find it ironic that Gecko is brought down by having dabbled in insider trading. Economics is not my forte, but the story does make it clear why Stone disapproves of asset stripping. But this is legal, and so is the use of tax havens, to say nothing of the whole big issue of social inequality. This is a big topic, and of course it cannot properly be discussed in a film review of a thousand words or fewer! But I am not entirely certain why insider trading is actually illegal, as using secret information to help one in the stock market does not seem the most immoral aspect of capitalism.

Part of the problem I have with the film is that so many of the characters are not easy to like. They are either unethical or, like Daryl Hannah's character (Darien), weak. With more sympathetic characters, this would definitely have been more enjoyable (for me), worthy of four stars or above. I think "Wall Street" is most likely to appeal to fans of Martin Sheen's work, or of his political activism, or both. He represents the heart of the film.

My favourite accessory is the robot, with the fake brick wallpaper a runner-up.

Secretary [2002] [DVD]
Secretary [2002] [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Spader
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £4.87

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Self-abuse, 7 Feb 2009
This review is from: Secretary [2002] [DVD] (DVD)
This is the only film that I would watch purely for the decor. It really is a visual treat, but it has more going for it than just its looks.

True, I would watch anything with James Spader in; however, this film is so good I would have loved it even it if he hadn't been in it. I am not sure if it is my favourite of of all his films, but it is definitely the best all round film that he has graced with his appearance. "sex, lies and videotape" has a great script. "Crash" has a mesmerising soundtrack. However, this has the whole package: lovely decor, many stylish outfits, a beautiful, intelligent script, good soundtrack (both incidental music and songs like Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man" and Lizzie West's "Chariots Rise") and great performances.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast and indeed I was disappointed that her name is listed after Spader's in the credits as I feel this story is more about her character than his.

What, however, are we to make of claims that this film is ... controversial? Some aficionados insist that feminists disapprove of it, and would have picketed cinemas had not its promoters cunningly concealed its true nature. Nonsense! The film was reviewed in major UK publications and no protests resulted. One fan suggested to me that only S and M enthusiasts can truly appreciate "Secretary". I feel it is unjust to the film to underestimate its appeal.

A more serious criticism is that it condones domestic violence. A friend of mine said, "If he had given her a black eye, it would be clearer what was going on". However, it is only fair to point out that she has never actually seen the film.

I think that it is clear to viewers there is a difference between Lee, who thrives on being spanked, and her mother, who hates and fears being used as a punchbag. I have lent my copies of this film to many people, including feminists and survivors of domestic violence. Nearly everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. The sole exception so far has been my mother. She objected to two incidents of self-harm rather than to any sexual content.

Highlights include the dream sequence, the release of the mouse and the moment with "three little words" (not the usual ones).

As amazon has a no-spoiler policy, I must be careful when I say that I adore almost all of the end sequences. The one thing that lets it down somewhat is Lee's wistful expression when ... someone leaves her for a few hours. Then again, she's a clever girl, she'll work something out.

My favourite accessory is the humane mousetrap. Runners-up include the "yoke" Lee wears in the opening sequence, her snood and the peas.

Animal lovers should note that the American Humane Association was praised in the credits. We can rest assured that not only was the mouse unharmed, but also that the monkey was not spanked.

Wolf [DVD]
Wolf [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Nicholson
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £12.58

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bite Me!, 7 Feb 2008
This review is from: Wolf [DVD] (DVD)
The opening sequences are beautifully filmed, and the moon and snow look gorgeous. The plot made sense, despite a few quibbles. I doubt anyone could really have found out that much information about animal possession in such a short time. Plus, I really think Laura should wear a hard hat when her horse is going faster than a walk.

It took a bit of mental gymnastics for me to work out that Jack Nicholson was actually playing a good guy. Prunella Scales has a cameo (in a memorable outfit) and David Schwimmer has a bit part. Michelle Pfeiffer conveys not just Laura's self-possession, but also the bleakness of her existence. Near the end, she portrays Laura's strength and confidence very effectively.

However, my favourite part of the film is when James Spader's character is slowly turning into a werewolf. He is creepy, he is mesmerising, he is sexy despite the fact he is turning into a callous killer ... very odd.

The credits claim that animals were "in no way mistreated during filming". That may have been the case with the wolves, deer and owl, particularly since there was some use of animatronics. However, the horses definitely looked frightened.

If there were a Werewolf Anti-Defamation League, they would probably hate this film. The idea that devious people are more prone to turn into werewolves is somewhat insulting to a much maligned species.

The ending is memorable.

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