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Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.)

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Erin Brockovich [DVD] [2000]
Erin Brockovich [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Julia Roberts
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the first time in my life, I got people respecting me. Please, don't ask me to give it up., 25 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Erin Brockovich [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
The film is based on a real case and is about real people so to that ends it is obviously simple in structure, and nagging away as you watch it is the fact that the ending is never in doubt, it "is" all too predictable. However, what made Erin Brockovich the success it was is that the title character is not only interesting but also, importantly, intriguing. A foul mouthed hard bitten, twice divorced mother of three has to fight her corner just to get an honest days pay. It's a fabulous story backed up by a simply incredible performance from Julia Roberts. Here Roberts has let her hair down, puts on a push up bra and a short skirt, she is clearly enjoying the freedom of the role, and the results are real effective.

I have no doubt that working alongside Albert Finney helped Roberts no ends, but it is her show all the way, and she alone masks over what really is an ordinary film, there is nothing we haven't seen before here, it's just a more modern take on the good versus evil corporate company scenario. It's steadily directed by Steven Soderbergh, emotional scenes are not overstretched to treacle point, and all in all it's good solid story telling. Repeat viewings prove to dilute the uplift factor of the finale, but Roberts' performance certainly holds firm for evermore.

8/10 for the film, 10/10 for Roberts' ballsy show. If only we could have had more of these performances from her.

Treehouse [DVD]
Treehouse [DVD]
Dvd ~ J. Michael Trautmann
Price: £3.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pain!, 24 July 2015
This review is from: Treehouse [DVD] (DVD)
Just how do these awful films keep getting made? It's something that tends to happen a lot in the horror genre, though calling Treehouse a horror movie is a bit of stretch.

It's difficult to grasp just what the makers were going for since the film goes nowhere fast and quickly loses focus to the point that nothing much makes sense. It starts off promising enough, with a nice musical score and some nifty location photography work. Then it piles on the exposition, throws in some poor acting, all building towards a laughable finale that is most certainly not worth waiting for - and again the reveal doesn't make any sense given what had happened earlier in the piece.

Poor and best avoided unless you want to feel angry? 2/10

The Claim [DVD] [2001]
The Claim [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Wes Bentley
Price: £4.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Casterbridge Claim., 21 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Claim [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
"Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"

Michael Winterbottom directs what is in essence a Western version of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge. It's Sierra Nevada, California, 1867 and the pioneer town of Kingdom Come is thriving under the strict but effective rule of Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan). Dillon came by way of a gold claim many years earlier by way of a trade, the barter? His wife and child. But now the past is about to catch up with him and Kingdom Come could well turn out to be his burning hell...

Right off the bat it has to be said that The Claim is a difficult film to recommend, even to Western movie lovers. It's deliberately slow and purposely elegiac and ethereal. The literary aspects of the narrative positively sparkle, yet still this doesn't make the story any more vibrant, because Winterbottom and screenplay writer Frank Cottrell Boyce want to keep things in perspective. In a film that is awash with untold beauty, the snowy mountainous landscapes (Calgary standing in for California) stunningly photographed by Alwin H. Küchler, it's perpetually cold and bleak, the ice and snow a constant that marries up with characters who are deliberately hard to like.

Technically this is one superior piece of work. Küchler and Winterbottom's panoramas are sublime, the town is strikingly designed by the art department, all wooded angles and smoking chimneys that are magnificently framed by the mountains, while the sound-mix thunders the ears and adds another dimension to the grubby realistic feel. Interior sequences are filmed in low lights, making the lamps spectral in sight, the costume design and the narrative strength of the town whorehouse (which is the fulcrum of proceedings) have a class about them that shines bright in the pantheon of modern era produced Westerns, while Michael Nyman's musical score is evocatively strong.

The cast respond well to Winterbottom's requirements, Mullan, Wes Bentley, Sarah Polley, Milla Jovovich and Nastassja Kinski (how nice to see the latter twin euro beauties stripped of make up to show a natural era sexiness) all turn in charismatic and heartfelt performances. Narratively the film is driving towards Dillon's day of reckoning, his shoulders heavy with regret and his soul in desperate need of purging. In the interim we are privy to the lives and loves of the townsfolk, their foibles, faults and fancies, this while the town is alive with the arrival of the railroad company, who it is hoped by Dillon will make Kingdom Come prosper still further...

Unfair comparisons have been drawn with Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Yes, this is similar in style and execution, but why not just see it as the perfect companion piece to Altman's movie? Because it is. How about we instead look at the finale? Which draws a favourably thematic link to the brilliant Boetticher/Scott Western, Ride Lonesome. When push comes to shove, and in honest terms, The Claim is a film that for sure may be hard to love, but it sure as heck fire is a film that is easy to admire. Western fans should see it because they "will" take something positive from the experience. 8/10

D-Tox [DVD] [2002]
D-Tox [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Sylvester Stallone
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.20

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You're real good at kicking them when they're down, aren't you?, 19 July 2015
This review is from: D-Tox [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Sly Stallone stars as an FBI Agent who turns to drink when the love of his life becomes the victim of a crazed serial killer who has been targeting cops for death. So struck by the tragedy, he is coerced into signing up for a rehab programme at a remote asylum facility, but soon it becomes clear that the serial killer is still in his midst.

Famously delayed from being released for quite some time, D-Tox is like an itch on Stallone's CV that he will never be able to scratch. In truth it's quite serviceable as a formulaic thriller, but it's so derivative and, yes, dumb, it's hard to recommend with any sort of confidence.

Any number of thriller films you have probably seen will spring to mind when viewing this, but in short it's like a "10 Little Indians" meets "The Thing", with a side order of "Seven" thrown in for good measure. The first half is actually well built by the makers, establishing Stallone's emotional chaos, his dive into the bottle, and then setting him up in an institution that is frighteningly monolithic in a grey and steely way. His co-patients are all troubled coppers in search of a dry run, and this also sets things up neatly for some rich characterisations, unfortunately it all descends into cliché hell and wastes what is a rather superb cast - while Stallone unfortunately shifts from a believable tortured soul into a muscle head with a gun. Cest la vie!

Good moody atmosphere and some heart jolting deaths keeps the pic on the boil, but ultimately the pandering of the norm renders a promising thriller to being distinctly average. 5/10

Carry On Henry [DVD] [1971]
Carry On Henry [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Kenneth Williams
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £8.53

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Henry Tudor just got ruder!, 19 July 2015
This review is from: Carry On Henry [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
The 21st film of the long running Carry On series is a bawdy trip into the court of King Henry VIII (Sid James). The King has recently married Queen Marie of Normandy (Joan Sims) but since she eats too much garlic, thus putting the King off his conjugal rights, he plots to get her out the way. However, he must tread carefully as a war with France could easily arise should anything happen to the Queen.

Some of the best colour Carry On movies would turn out to be set in an historical period. Carry On Henry is not one of the best from the historical romps, but it's a goodie and for those who like the saucy side of the series then it has plenty of appeal.

The presence of James on womanising and boozing form, and Barbara Windsor doing her no brain all sexuality act, gives this entry its saucy soul, while Terry Scott (superb visual ticks), Kenny Williams (a continuously wonderful foil for Scott) and Charles Hawtrey mince about with gleeful abandon. The energy of the comedy is high and sustained throughout, while the art design and costuming is regal in production. The gunpowder plot forms a side-bar narrative, which is joyous but also shows us that Kenneth Connor is sadly under used, but the innuendo and purposely groan inducing gags are always on hand to tickle the senses of those so inclined towards this splinter of the popular British institution. 7/10

Carry On Loving (Special Edition) [DVD]
Carry On Loving (Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kenneth Williams
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £3.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ignorance actually is, in this case, Bliss!, 18 July 2015
As the 1970s began, the Carry On team would continue undaunted by a new decade and a changing of the times, they instead embraced it with innuendo laden open arms - for better and worse as would prove to be the case.

"Loving" finds Sid James and Hattie Jaques as a boyfriend and girlfriend couple operating under false pretences as a wedded bliss couple running a computer dating agency. The central theme is that of a number of hapless and lovelorn singletons who hope to get fixed up by the "Bliss Agency", only to find disaster after disaster, mismatch after mismatch, befalling those hoping for Cupid/Eros' arrows to strike.

It's all very plot less, a sort of rerun of Carry On Regardless but with the amiable vignettes of that film replaced here with more knowingly bawdy and sexy scenarios. Terry Scott and James have fun as randy old devils, each thrust into a number of awkward situations via angry girlfriends & boyfriends, Kenny Williams gets the best part of the screenplay as a marriage guidance counsellor - and confirmed bachelor - hopelessly out of his depth when push comes to shove (ooh-err), while Jacki Piper and Imogen Hassall positively steam up the screen with underwear and push-up-bra revelations.

The 70s would prove to be a troublesome decade for the series, and this does feel like the start of the slide, which is annoying since the rather cheeky and funny Carry On Up the Jungle was also released this same year. There is some value in "Loving", it has Sid and Hattie as a warring couple, which is always fun to be part of, while Williams and Scott throw themselves into their roles - just as Bernard Bresslaw steals scenes as a hulking wrestler miffed at Joan Sims' being the apple of Sid James' eye! But it feels forced and although it has some moments for fans to enjoy, the high points of Carry On Up the Kyber and the box office gold of Carry On Camping would ultimately prove to be nostalgic glances back to the series' better days. 6/10

Almost Famous Untitled: Boot Cut [DVD] [2001] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Almost Famous Untitled: Boot Cut [DVD] [2001] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopes, Dreams & Nightmares., 14 July 2015
Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe's paean to rock music, of bands and songs, of journalism and promotion, of sex & drugs. Drawing from experience and stories passed on, Crowe tells the tale of a young teenage boy aspiring to be a music journalist in the 1970s. Finding himself backstage with the rock group Stillwater, William Miller (Patrick Fugit) embarks on a road journey with the band that's awash with egos, groupies, perils and pleasures, all of which change his life forever.

Lets go find something real!

The most striking thing about it is that it's not overtly funny or sensationalistic, it's a production that's full of love, real love, for the subject matters to hand, and it's very often a moving experience to be part of. Narratively speaking, Crowe takes his time, steadily building characters and backdrop essentials, it works a treat as we become immersed in all the major players within the music circle, while also feeling the concerns of those on the outside of the rock group circle. Which of course gives us the great rewards come the final third of film when all matters come to a head. Crowe and his design team also work some magic for period flavours, capturing the early 70s vibe with awareness of clothing, food and drink and transport. Nothing ever seems false, which is remarkable in this era of product placements and shameless plugging.

50 bucks and a case of beer!

Another one of Crowe's strengths is how he garners great performances from his actors. There's no big stars here, no Tom or Renée, but Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Kate Hudson and Fugit, who respond to their director with sincere and believable performances, no caricatures or ham sarnies here, no way. While outskirt performances from Frances McDormand (brilliant as William's fretful mother), Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman (as the legendary Lester Bangs) and Fairuza Balk, consistently hit the hi-hat. The music of course rocks, from metal and progers, to folkers and bubblegum, to some punk godfathery, these sounds feature on the soundtrack and kick the decade into orbit - while the Stillwater scenes are effective and the use of Elton John's Tiny Dancer will land in your heart and stay there.

Cameron Crowe has created a smashingly memorable film that will stand the tests of time. Two cuts are available, where both the theatrical and director's cuts are sure fire things (the latter Bootleg Cut my personal favourite). This is a music based film to sit with the best of them, God Bless Rock N Roll and God Bless Cameron Crowe, for he could have easily embellished and over egged his rock pudding, instead he kept it real. 9/10

Madame Bovary (NTSC) USA import
Madame Bovary (NTSC) USA import
Dvd ~ Jennifer Jones
Offered by afternoon-matinee
Price: £16.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you know, Charles, why that clock strikes? To announce the death of another hour., 13 July 2015
Madame Bovary is directed by Vincente Minnelli and adapted to screenplay by Robert Ardrey from the Gustave Flaubert novel. It stars Jennifer Jones, Van Heflin, Louis Jourdan, Alf Kjellin, Gene Lockhart and James Mason. Music is by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography by Robert H. Planck.

It's most interesting now watching Minnelli's picture and being able to place it in the time it was made. Also of major interest is reading up on what the critics of the time had to say about it. This version is an undoubted lesson in the technical crafts of film making, the visuals, the sound, art design, costuming and a literary pumped screenplay that allows the cast to play it classical. It's also black hearted, perfectly in keeping with the gathering storm of the era that was film noir.

Here is the monster.

Some of the complaints about the film, to me anyway, just don't add up. Why do we need to care about anyone in this story? It's a dark tale of illicit passions, greed, betrayals, bad parenting and etc. Is this frowned upon in some circles because of love for the classic novel? Or because there's some esteem held for other versions? The criticism of Jones is also very suspect given it's a classic femme fatale performance, Emma is cold and driven and shallow to others feelings, Jones works it perfectly.

As Rózsa's beautiful lush and poignant musical arrangements drift and hover over the various story instalments, Minnelli brings the film making guile. His camera work is sublime, like a ghost moving about the characters for the more vibrant scenes, tracking and roving, dizzyingly beautiful. At others it's close and personal, imbuing Emma's claustrophobia, with the black and white contrasts superbly photographed by Planck.

So it doesn't capture the essence of Flaubert's intent, then? Emma Bovary a figure of hate instead of sympathy, the lack of a caustic aside on a society of double standards? So what! Outstanding film making is just that, especially when it can tune into a style of film making prevalent at its birth. Madame Bovary - maybe the most film noir movie not actually considered a film noir. Brilliant. 9/10

Memento (3 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Memento (3 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Guy Pearce
Offered by ceekayone
Price: £17.37

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We all lie to ourselves to be happy., 13 July 2015
It's not until a film like Memento comes along, or that you personally have to deal with someone close who suffers a form of this subject to hand, that you get jolted to remember just how your memory is such a prized and treasured thing - and crucially that it's one of your key safety devices.

Christopher and Jonathan Nolan crafted one of the best films of 2000 based on those facets of the human condition. Their protagonist is Leonard Shelby, played with stupendous believability by Guy Pearce, who is suffering from a memory amnesia caused by a trauma to the head as he tried to aide his wife who was raped and murdered. He can remember things before the incident, but anything post that and he can't form a memory. So who can he trust? Does he know any of the few people who appear to be in his life at the present time? He tattoos his body to help him remember, constantly writes notes to keep him alert in his now alien world, while all the time he is on the search for the man who ruined his life.

Christopher Nolan plants the audience right into Leonard's world. By using a reverse story telling structure it's deliberately complex and ingenious given that it opens with the ending! It has been argued that it's trickery for trickery sake, style over substance, but the way each scene is built upon in the narrative is a thing of high quality, it's all relevant and demands the closest of attention from the viewer, where cheekily we are ourselves asked to form memories of prior narrative passages. Mystery is strong throughout, the characters currently in Leonard's life may have different means and motives, it keeps us alert, with the confusion, lies, manipulations, enigmas and amnesia angles booming with neo-noir vibrancy. And the Nolan's know their noir of course, adding a narrator who is hard to define or trust himself!

The reverse structure wasn't new in 2000, but Christopher Nolan picks up the idea and adds new strands to it, simultaneously bringing his visual ticks as David Julyan's musical score shifts from elegiac forebodings to pulse pounding dread, and as evidenced by the darling easter egg option that allows one to watch it in chronological order, it's a damn fine thriller without the reverse trickery anyway. Super. 9/10

Carry On Follow That Camel [DVD]
Carry On Follow That Camel [DVD]
Dvd ~ Phil Silvers
Offered by Special Interests
Price: £2.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mustapha Leek!, 12 July 2015
Originally released under the title Follow That Camel, Carry On Follow That Camel is the 14th entry in the long running series. Story plays out as a historical parody of the Beau Geste type of movies, thrusting Jim Dale and Peter Butterworth into the French Foreign Legion. There they are at the mercy of Commandant Maximilian Burger (Kenny Williams) and Sergeant Nocker (Phil Silvers brought in to try and boost American ticket sales).

Japery is prominent as the not so intrepid Legionnaires get involved with an angry army of Bedouins led by Sheikh Abdul Abulbul (Bernard Bresslaw). Joan Sims has a minor role as a big cleavage landlady, while it's Angela Douglas snagging the main gal role as Lady Jane Ponsonby, with a running gag of her sexual innocence being mined for all it's worth. It's actually a better film than the iffy reputation afforded it. True, missing big hitters like Sid James and Hattie Jacques is felt, but Silvers is ebullient playing a Bilko character, while it's nice to see the excellent Jim Dale bag the English lead and not letting anyone down.

It sits somewhere in the middle scale of Carry On films, neither too bawdy nor like the genial black and whites. But plenty of laughs to be had and it's a good production, the Camber Sands locations surprisingly passing muster as the Legionnaires desert hell. Well constructed battle sequences for the finale as well. 7/10

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