JayDee's Movie Musings

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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Check out Lawrence of Arabia. Personally, I think it's Lean's best, but The Bridge on the River Kwai would probably be my second favorite.
I certainly plan to at some point, thank for the recommendation.

Was The Incredible Shrinking Man the first of the Sci-Fi boxset that you've watched? If so, I'm looking forward to your reviews of the others.

I love Niagara. It's probably my favourite Monroe film. That, and The Seven Year Itch.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Was The Incredible Shrinking Man the first of the Sci-Fi boxset that you've watched? If so, I'm looking forward to your reviews of the others.

I love Niagara. It's probably my favourite Monroe film. That, and The Seven Year Itch.
Yeah it was the first I watched. Thought I'd mentioned to you in PM about it, must be mistaken. Since then I've watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Another very good film though I wouldn't rate it as highly as Shrinking Man.

Though I enjoyed Niagara I felt I should have enjoyed it even more. Maybe wasn't quite in the right mood. Will give it another shot at some point in the nearish future. And Seven Year Itch was great.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Pleasantville (1998)

"Up until now everything around here has been, well, pleasant. Recently certain things have become unpleasant. Now, it seems to me that the first thing we have to do is to separate out the things that are pleasant from the things that are unpleasant."

A delightful and enchanting film. As I mentioned in my top 100 list I think it was I really don't know why I haven't seen this film before. It's a film I've fancied for a long time and even blind bought it on DVD a few years ago. And yet I still hadn't seen it until just a few days ago

It's a great little fantasy film which could easily pass for a classic Twilight Zone episode. It tells the tale of siblings, David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) and the amazing events that happens to them. Pleasantville is a gentle sitcom right out of the 50s in the tradition of Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. After an encounter with a mysterious man they find themselves somehow transported straight into the black and white world of Pleasantville; a world of picket fences, milk shakes, unbeaten basketball teams, eternal sunshine and proclamations of “swell” and “gee-whiz!” Before long however their influence begins to have a profound effect on the people and the town of Pleasantville.

The film is full of lovely moments. Each time a little bit of colour drips into the monochrome world is a magical moment. Just such a simple moment like the red of a rose has so much more effect than you could imagine. It's quite a rare beast in that it's a film that uses special effects for something more than just visual amazement. And the moment where Jeff Daniels' character is introduced to the beauty of art is just wonderful.

While it is the visuals that capture the imagination the most, there is also some truly lovely music here as well. Throughout I was reminded of the kind of music that featured in similar dark-tinged fairytales; films like Edward Scissorhands. And there were some points in particular which reminded my heavily of Toy Story, so it came as no real surprise that when the end credits rolled Randy Newman was revealed as the man responsible for the stirring score.

The film is propelled by a well written and creative script by Gary Ross, the man responsible for another of my favourite fantasy films, Big. And there are definite similarities. While both come off as gentle and feelgood for large portions of the film, it also uses the fantastical incidents that have occurred to tackle deeper issues.

Gary Ross recreates the world perfectly in all its grating mawkishness before slowly tearing it down. It mocks it gently and affectionately however, much like Galaxy Quest mocked sci-fi shows and fans. There are some lovely touches that play into the classic sitcom ideas and set-up. For example the fact that the whole place consists of just two streets (as taught in geography class) and at the end of Main Street comes...Main Street again! Another great moment is when a player on the unbeaten basketball team actually misses a shot for once. The confusion and horror it creates for the coach and players is rather brilliant - “Don't touch it!” Oh and the firemen not reacting to calls of fire but leaping into action at the shout of "Cat!"

Maguire and Witherspoon both make for good, likeable leads but for me where the film really comes alive is with the excellent performances of the supporting cast. With William H Macy, Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels and the late J.T. Walsh you're pretty much assured of some strong acting, and here they all deliver. Quite importantly none of them really try to steal the show with anything showy, they all give fairly understated performances which just help with the development of their characters and to move the story along.

Going in to the film I was expecting just a gentle, whimsical fairytale throughout so was very surprised by the depth of the film, and the darker ideas that were explored. While I doubt I have the intelligence to fully grasp everything on offer, for me it was a film about the wonder of self-expression and allowing yourself to experience new things. When the characters begin to discover things about life and within themselves, colour begins to appear in and around them. As with all social changes however there are those who resent and rail against it, bringing in themes of fascism and censorship, none more so than when it comes to crushing the artistic expression of Jeff Daniels' character.

Then of course there is the obvious issue of racial prejudice and conflicts, tackled cleverly by pitting the black and white characters against the 'coloreds' – those people who have had colour seep into their lives. A great scene in particular is the echoing of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird court scene. In this instance those of a monochrome persuasion control the floor of the courtroom with those of 'colour' relegated to the upstairs.

It's also quite interesting in a world that is apparently on a downward slide, that “wasn't like this in the old days”, to have a film that argues for the great progress we have made. For a number of people the 50s seem to be this idyllic haven, but here those times are re-evaluated. While our current world may have its fair share of problems it also has a lot more opportunities and freedom for people.

Conclusion – Fantastic film. A real gem. I get the feeling that I will mostly likely be saying “welcome to my top 100 list Pleasantville” very soon.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
can't really say much else you haven't already included!
Not surprised at that. I did rather waffle on didn't I?

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
*WARNING - Some slight spoilers ahead*

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
first viewing

Apes alone weak. Apes together strong.”

Shockingly excellent. For me this film was a massive surprise. When I first heard about the film I think I actually sighed; I just really didn't see the need for it. I was pretty sure it would be awful; I mean Razzie award winning levels of awful. Then I saw the trailer and TV spots and I become intrigued. They seemed to show a bit of promise, and the final product certainly matched and far exceeded my expectations.

I just really wasn't sure how they would do it. I had assumed from the original film that man had wiped itself out in a nuclear war, and that in the wasteland the apes had evolved to fill the gap. So I was interested to see what role the humans played in the evolution of the apes, but still struggled to comprehend how they could make a handful of apes a threat to 6 billion humans. By the end of the film however I was convinced. We see how the humans are going to dwindle away, and how the apes will rise to replace them. In those terms it's a great success. It's very well written and planned out. The path they go down to explain the evolution of the apes is not just all about that, it allows them to look at a number of issues such as nature v nurture, animal testing and the ethical questions that go along with DNA manipulation; just what do we have the right to do?

For a big summer blockbuster it was quite rare in that it wasn't constantly rushing to throw in another bit of action. It takes it's time to really build up and flesh out the story, giving us a reason to care when the action does show up. Other than a couple of ape v ape scraps the action is mostly withheld until the last 20-30 minutes, and when it arrives it certainly delivers. What we get is a fantastic action set-piece set on the Golden Gate Bridge, pitting the army of apes against police officers trying to stop them. It's one of the most enjoyable and gripping action set-pieces I've seen in quite a while. For his first shot at a film on this scale, director Rupert Wyatt deserves a lot of credit. He brings a lot of style and energy.

The special effects and technology on show are truly stunning. The creation of the apes has got to be one of the most impressive achievements to date in the field of CGI. In particular the large gorilla and the former circus orangutan are just amazing in their realisation. As for Caesar himself I'm a little torn. I wouldn't say he looks like a real-life ape, but he is still a wonderful creation. His face just seems a little too human, though perhaps that was a choice made by the makers of the film to show how in many ways he was more human than ape.

James Franco is a decent, watchable lead and it's always a treat to see John Lithgow in absolutely anything, he certainly gives the best of the 'human' performances. But this is certainly Andy Serkis' show, no doubt about it. Just as with Gollum the character he brings to life is just incredible; full of expressions and mannerisms that are all his own, not quite fully human but also not ape. He fills the character with heart, soul and yes, humanity. You really end up caring about and rooting for this little ape to rise up. It's a mesmerising performance, and the relationship that builds up between Franco, Lithgow and Caesar is a very touching and tender one. In many ways Caesar becomes a part of the family. I don't know if a motion capture performance will ever win an Oscar, but if someone ever does I'd be very surprised if it wasn't Serkis.

Serkis is helped to create the character by the script which provides Caesar with some lovely moments. The moment where he recreates the window from his home by drawing on the walls of his cage is a very touching visual. And the fact that he did not want to hurt people if he could avoid it, people who were just doing their job, was a nice touch. Only those who had committed cruel acts towards them were killed. Oh and despite expecting it throughout the film, the moment where Caesar finally speaks is still able to carry great power.

As a massive fan of the original 1968 Apes film I got a real kick out of the little nods made to it. So the references to the space flight that Heston's character would have been involved in, and Caesar playing with a little toy replica of the Statue of Liberty produced a little smile for me.

What I think makes the film work really well is the fact that instead of being about the humans, this film is more about the apes, Caesar in particular. It just gives it a fresh feeling and perspective.

As for weak points I really don't think there are a great deal of them. There are a couple of characters that are a bit weak and simplistic perhaps. Franco's boss, Jacobs, comes across as a bit of a panto villain, totally consumed by money, money, money! Another review I saw somewhere had the line “he's such an obvious bad guy that he might as well come on twirling a moustache.” Then at the complete polar opposite there is Franco's girlfriend, Caroline, the moral compass of the film. She only seems to be there so she can constantly tell us how some things aren't meant to be messed with, not meant to be changed. I just found her to be very irritating.

It was also one of those films that perhaps suffered a bit from most of the major moments already popping up in the trailer. A lot of the moments which could have been 'wow moments' I had already seen numerous times. I understand why they did it however. After the, shall we say, lukewarm reception (and yes that is being really quite kind) for Tim Burton's Apes film, the studio had good reason to fear audiences may not have great interest in returning to the franchise, so they jam-packed the trailer with as much kick-ass stuff as they could to grab the attention of cinema-goers.

Oh and the famous line from the original film - “Get your stinkin' paws off me you damn dirty ape!”- is resurrected here, and for me it just felt a little forced and cringey. But other than that it's just fantastic entertainment.

Conclusion – A complete and utter success. One of the most pleasantly surprising films I've seen in quite a while. For me personally it's the film of the summer, and one of the films of the year so far.

PS - I think this is now the 4th film in here I've rated as 4.5. Perhaps that hurts the accomplishment of such a high rating, but I think they all deserve it. In between these films I've seen plenty of others which I wouldn't rate anywhere as close to that score, but at the moment with the time and effort it takes I have only be bothered writing a long review for films that I really loved and cared about

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
nice review jaydee.
Very late in the game but just wanted to say thank you.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
As I've done before I'm posting this both here and in the movie tab thread as I'm still not sure where is best. And I don't want to post everytime in both as it would just look like I was trying to bump my post count. Whatever gets most rep points (meaning more attention) will be the winner.


King of Kong (repeat viewing)


I just love this little film. It's not possible to rate this documentary in terms of great footage or in depth research or anything like that. It's just a simple little film without any really flash or tricks so my rating is purely for how enjoyable I found the subject matter. And I enjoyed it immensely.

The story of two guys vying for the top score on an old arcade game really doesn't sound like it should be all that exciting, but it just ends up as a cracking story. It turns into an epic battle between good and evil; full of conspiracies, twists and turns.

Just a fantastically entertaining film. I think I remember I made it my number 4 film of 2007.


Heavenly Creatures

A stunningly affecting film. Beautiful and enchanting, while at the same time haunting and etheral. With two really impressive central performances from Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey it takes a difficult and troubling subject and tells it wonderfully.

While we never get to the stage of sympathising with the girls the film successfully relates and helps us understand why it happened. By contrasting their real lives with the fantasy world that they have created, we understand why the fantasy world begins to bleed through into reality for the girls, and why they go to such lengths to try and realise it.

Peter Jackson does an excellent job. The scene where the murder is actually depicted is truly powerful and disturbing; brought about through the music, the silence of the characters and the long pause which seems to last for an age before it finally happens. And the fantasy sequences work tremendously. Back in 1994 the effects may have been the pinnacle of the current technology but now look a little dated. But I actually think that helps the film. It gives them more of a homemade vibe which fits with the idea of it being creations of the girls, just as the clay figures are.


The Lavender Hill Mob


A fantastic little film. Just a real joy. Unlike most of the other Ealing comedies I've seen which feel quaint, old fashioned and twee with few laughs, this actually still feels nice and fresh and very funny. Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway make for a great double act

There are lots of great moments but my favourite would have to be when Guinness and Holloway descend the stairs on the Eiffel Tower. It's wonderfully filmed, and they just descend into a fit of giggles through a mixture of dizziness and also just the sheer giddiness of the whole thing. These two men are just about the last people you would expect to be criminal masterminds, and as such they seem to get a massive kick out of it – finally a bit of excitement in their lives.



I just absolutely loved this film. I just found it to be a really cool, quirky little film. Funny but also a little sad and touching at points. The two young actors, Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, are both very impressive and make a loveable oddball couple. And then there is Paddy Considine who is just wonderful in his bizarre role.

Ayoade was referenced many times as being the 'new Wes Anderson' or the 'British Wes Anderson.' While it's an easy and perhaps lazy comparison it is also very justified. For me rhe film felt very reminiscent of Anderson's work, Rushmore in particular.


The Man Who Knew Too Much


Another cracking thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. With twists and turns galore, moments of high tension but with traces of humour throughout it's just a really fun ride from start to finish. In the central roles James Stewart and Doris Day both give engaging performances, whilst having a lovely chemistry and relationship with each other.

One of Hitchcock's trademarks was staging rousing and spectacular set pieces at the finale of his films, and this is another that continues that tradition; this time a fantastic 12 minute sequence at the Albert Hall. For those 12 minutes not a single word of dialogue is spoken. Instead we get the London Symphony Orchestra playing, we get the assassin preparing his shot and we get Doris Day torturing herself over what she should do all expertly pieced together.




I found this to be an immensely engaging film, even if I'm not entirely sure why. It's very low key and not a lot happens but there is just something about it that really got under my skin. The two main actors are very charming and realistic and while the aliens are not on screen for much time they are very well realised.


The Peddler


An oddball but very charming little documentary. It tells the story of the world's most prolific director that you've never heard of, Danirl Burmeister. He travels from village to village in Argentina, making films using the locals which is then given it's premier at a gathering of the community. And all he asks for is room and board, no additional money.

The reason the film worked so well for me is Daniel Burmeister himself. I never had a grandfather but he acts like I think one would do, thanks to how they are presented in numerous American films and sitcoms. He is a kindly and eccentric old man who seems to know how to do everything. He is an extremely likeable person.

The documentary details the making of one film in a small, rural village. As such it actually feels a lot like a behind the scenes 'making of' DVD extra but is so much more entertaining than you would imagine from that. The real result of the film, as one of the villagers says, is that it brings the community together, getting people talking who wouldn't normally


Super 8


Enjoyable but ultimately disappointing. I was wanting to love this. I wanted an absolute classic. But it just didn't happen. It had some good performances from Kyle Chandler and the kids, and some entertaining and realistic dialogue between the kids but just lacked the magic I was hoping for.

There were too many stretches where the film just seemed to drag for me. I wanted more action, more excitement, more charm...just more! It's a good film but nowhere close to the fantastic spectacle I was hoping for and even expecting. Perhaps my expectations were just too high.


Science of Sleep


A fun and exceptionally creative film from the mind of Michael Gondry. There really are some moments that have to be seen to be believed. With very little plot to speak of it is definitely an example of style over substance film-making. The relationship between Gael Garcia Bernal and the adorable Charlotte Gainsbourg's characters is very sweet, but too often the film just seems to be trying to hard; straying into pretentious territory.

A nice film but certainly no Eternal Sunshine...


The Kids Are All Right


A solid, very strongly acted film although I'm a little miffed as to how it got an Oscar nomination for best film. It's a well written study of family, with some fantastic performances from pretty much the whole cast. While Annette Bening seemed to get most of the acting nominations I was actually most engaged by the performance of Julianne Moore.

I do plan on revisiting the film sometime and may actually enjoy it more. The reason is that I was expecting more quirky, indie style moments and was a little surprised it was more of a family drama.


Monster in Law

Surprisingly fun little comedy. I really wasn't expecting much but I really enjoyed it. Maybe it's just the mood I was in at the time because it certainly isn't regarded highly very generally. While it doesn't offer anything new I just found it to be a funny film. Jane Fonda steals the film any time she's on screen and as a fan of Alias it's always fun for me to see Michael Vartan.


The A-Team


A completely mindless blockbuster, but as mindless blockbusters go it's harmless and actually rather enjoyable at times. And at least it doesn't seem to have any pretensions about being taken seriously. When you have your heroes escape in a flying tank you realise the makers of the film have no desire about making the film especially believable. Although the plot is so much more convoluted and confusing that it needs to be.

All of the cast pretty much join in and just go along with the fun. As required of him Bradley Cooper oozes charm and charisma, but it's Sharlto Copley that is the real star here. His performance as the unhinged Murdoch is wonderful fun and provides a number of laughs. The other star performer is Patrick Wilson as the horrible, sleazy . He really is someone that you just want to punch right in the face! Always a sign of a good villain.


Passport to Pimlico

This film has an absolutely cracking story as it's premise but at no point did I really feel it lived up to its promise. It's strength and indeed its weakness was that it's a 'nice film.' It's a nice pleasant watch; that very cosy, twee feel common in British films, but I don't think I see myself having a desire to ever revisit it. I know it's considered a classic and I may upset some people on here but it just didn't do it for me really


The Back-Up Plan

Last year there were two sperm donor romantic comedies, this film and The Switch with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston. I highly enjoyed The Switch but this is a real clunker. Not a single laugh was to be found, not a trace of chemistry between the two leads was evident and not one line of remotely memorable or inventive dialogue was written. Just awful!

Good whiskey make jackrabbit slap de bear.
I like quite a few movies out of that batch, especially The Kids Are Alright. I usually hate Mark Ruffalo, but his performance in thisis great.
"George, this is a little too much for me. Escaped convicts, fugitive sex... I've got a cockfight to focus on."

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Struggling to try and keep up just now, not finding a lot of time for writing reviews so a few of these are fairly short




An absolutely adorable film. From just about the first minute of it starting I felt myself falling in love with it. Just utterly charming.

It's a fairly simple, low-key little movie but works all the better for it. The understated, natural performances of the two lead actors and the lovely, engaging folksy songs mean I just loved it.

Just wonderful




An absolutely cracking thriller. It's a film with one great scene after another, full of interesting and memorable characters. Perhaps not as polished as Hitchcock's best but still immensely good fun. And the whole thing ends with another of Hitchcock's thrilling, trademark last reel set-pieces; this time atop the Statue of Liberty.


Detective Dee – Mystery of the Phantom Flame


A very fun piece of adventure this. It reminded me a lot of Guy Ritchie's recent version of Sherlock Holmes; as well the investigation angle it has the action, the thrills, the big effects and a touch of the paranormal about it.

There are moments throughout the film which just feel so epic and sumptous; it looks spectacular. And with a number of interesting, memorable characters all interacting with each other in scenes of romance, comedy, adventure and incredible action scenes, it really is a cracking, rip-roaring piece of entertainment.



A really classy offering from the Master of Suspense this. From very early on I was gripped by the mysterious, brooding tone that just drew me right in. It's very haunting. For the whole film my mind was creating possible scenarios about the outcome.

Despite the big name of Lawrence Olivier being involved the acting honours must go to Judith Anderson as the deliciously sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who torments and tortures the new lady of Manderley.


Brief Encounter

Not usually my kind of film but I just found it to be a lovely, touching effort. Beautifully and tenderly acted it completely pulled me in. Really beautiful.

And I found the ending to be really heartbreaking as the couple are denied the goodbye they so desire, all due to a chatty friend who won't shut up


Four Lions


I don't know how right or wrong this film is, whether it's in poor taste or not. The one thing I do know however is that I found it absolutely hysterical at times. There are just some hilarious moments scattered throughout, mostly of a daft and slapstick nature.

All of the main characters have their moments but most certainly stealing the show is Nigel Lindsay as Barry, an angry white convert to Islam. He is just fantastic.




It took me a while to really get into this film, mostly due to my expectations being wrong. I was expecting an espionage thriller, but instead found that was more of a background element to the relationship between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Their scenes together are a treat as they lie to each other and indeed each other about how they feel. And Hitchcock's directing is fantastic.

The last scene in particular is a fabulous ending, very suspenseful and intelligently played out. As I said it took a while to get into but by the end it had hooked me in. I can definitely see it getting a higher rating on a repeat viewing when I know what I'm getting.




A sweet, touching little film that is elevated by a standout turn from Hugh Dancy, and a nice understated performance by Rose Byrne. There are a few really nice scenes which come across as very romantic even if Adam perhaps doesn't perceive them as so.

I don't know much at all about Asperger's Syndrome, so I don't know how accurate the portrayla of the disorder is, but it certainly felt like it was presented sensitively and with respect. I felt like it was also successful in presenting the problems such a relationship may have honestly, but without taking it too far into dark and depressing territory.




I know a lot of people love this film so I may step on a few toes here. It's certainly a very interesting and at times very entertaining film. It's an absolutely brutal satire of television, the media, news reporting and big business companies in general. It has a couple of great scenes and a few laughs. And there is no doubt it's very prescient. Watching it for the first time just now with the investigation into press ethics going on over here in the UK it felt very resonant. There are a couple of great performances, especially from William Holden, but there are others which I felt were just too hammy and overblown.

However I just found it a bit overwrought; too desperate to hammer home the point. It crossed the line into being just too silly and completely ridiculous, making it impossible for me to buy. Perhaps you could argue that as it's a satire that's ok but I'd prefer something just a little more subtle. I'd say the same for much of the dialogue which just seemed so unrealistic and heavily scripted. Instead of characters actually talking, the film just felt like a series of monologues.

I just feel that such heavy-handed and over the top satire perhaps works better as a 20 minute episode of South Park than a two hour long feature film. But I know a lot of people on here will disagree. And to be fair there were points were I felt myself teetering on a tightrope, close to thinking 'this is great' so maybe on a repeat viewing I'll like it more.


Tower Heist


A fairly decent little film. The lack of laughs is disappointing and it's quite slow to get going but its reprieved by the heist itself. It's quite fun and rather creative in it's preposterousness. The film's main attraction for me was its cast and its certainly one of, if not its main strength. As a fan of Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller (sorry HoneyKid if you're reading! ), Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda and Judd Hirsch there was a lot for me to enjoy. Alda for me is the star of the show, going from kindly old man to a real sleeze fantastically.

And the film also gets bonus points for bringing Eddie Murphy somewhat back to his old form. It's the closest I've seen him to the fun, edgy energy of 48Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places etc for a long time.


Bell Book and Candle


I was sure this would be a real winner with me. The concept sounded fun and it stars two classic actors who I've really taken to in a big way (Jack Lemmon and James Stewart). And it reteamed Stewart with his Vertigo co-star Kim Novak which I was interested to see. But in the end it just felt really flat for me. The romance didn't really appeal to me and I found it very low on laughs. I'll maybe give it another shot someday and will hopefully 'get it' that time, but for now disappointing.


Whisky Galore


I wanted to love this. It's a part of Scottish history when it comes to popular culture and I like to support anything related to the country I love, but I just couldn't when it came to this. I just found it slow, dull and just painfully quaint and twee. And for a classic, acclaimed comedy I'm not sure there was a single laugh for me to be found.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
*WARNING - Spoilers ahead*

No Country for Old Men (2007)
first viewing

Director - Ethan and Joel Coen
Starring - Tommy Lee Jones/ Javier Bardem/ Josh Brolin/ Kelly Macdonald/ Woody Harrelson

"I always liked to hear about the old-timers. Never missed a chance to do so.
You can't help but compare yourself against the old timers."

For about 70/80 minutes I was absolutely loving this. It was well on its way to at the very least a 4.5 rating, and I was already considering where it may place on my top 100 list. And then it just started to slip away. Up until then it had been a cracking, edge of the seat thriller with a series of excellent performances.

It's a classic cat and mouse tale. Or I suppose dog, cat and mouse tale would be more accurate, as we follow the paths of three characters to the inevitable points where they will come crashing together. We have a clear villian, the obvious hero and then a man who lies somewhere in between. That man in the middle is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a blue collar everyman who stumbles across a cache of $2 million following a disastrously failed drug deal. His decision to take this money however makes him a wanted man; and he is pursued by the hero, Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and the villain of the piece, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).

While Brolin's character Llewelyn Moss isn't exactly the greatest of human beings I did find myself rooting for him in a way. I think it's just because he's such a nobody who takes a chance to make it big, only to find himself so far out of his depth. He just becomes such an underdog in the shadow of Chigurh.

The reason I felt it slip away is the lack of resolution. After moving at a breakneck speed for much of it's running time, the film just seemed to slow right down and then come to a halt. Sheriff Bell just kind of throws in the towel. Chigurh just wanders off into the sunset. And then most frustratingly of all is the death of Moss. It happens off screen and we don't even really get a decent look at his body. Yes I guess Bell's character gets a resolution, but I just felt the situation that had been created didn't.

I understand that the film is actually the story of Tommy Lee Jones' character and I get how his pondering retirement and his dreams and everything all tie together. Just because I 'get it' doesn't mean I can't dislike it. And I don't understand why that can be used as the reasoning we don't see Moss' death on screen. I've seen it written that we don't see it because it's not what is important, it's all about Bell. But why then bother showing us any of Moss' actions?

While I'm sure the Coens would prefer I appreciated the elements of character study, and the musings on moral choices, fate, human nature etc I was just loving it as a great thriller and chase movie, and in that respect I felt let down.

Anyway back to positives. As I said earlier I thought the performances were fantastic. Javier Bardem is excellent, creating a truly chilling and memorable character. He seems unstoppable, like a damn terminator. He actually reminded me of a recurring nightmare I had as a kid of being chased with no way of escape. Brolin is a great foil for him, though his performance perhaps doesn't really stand out. In some ways it's actually quite a restrained and quiet showing, while still portraying power and desperation. Oh and Kelly McDonald is amazing. Unless I knew beforehand I would find it almost impossible to believe that she was a fellow Scot, and not a genuine Texas gal.

And then there is the just about always excellent Tommy Lee Jones. While you could argue that he's not exactly stretching himself to play the character, and he's played similar many times before (particularly in The Three Burials of Melquadies Estrada) he is still very effective and engaging.

Of the Coen's canon of films I'd rank this as one of their most naturalistic. They go for a much more down to earth feel when it comes to images and dialogue, abandoning their usual 'look how clever we are' style; a style that comes across as either very creative or a bit smug, depending on your point of view. As a result a number of scenes of great dialogue are created (most notably between Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Corbin), as well as some thrilling and hard-hitting moments of action; violence that feels real and brutal rather than over-stylised Hollywood action.

Going back to Bardem for a moment. While his performance is very good, I'm not 100% sure if I'd say it was an Oscar-worthy performance or not. For the most part he speaks in a monotone voice throughout and does nothing much else other than glare menacingly (though to be fair it does feel like he's staring right into my soul! ). I just think that a lot of the power of the character is down to his creation by Cormac McCarthy, and then how he was realised for the screen by the Coens.

It's a film full of standout scenes and moments that stuck in my mind long after the film had ended. The one scene however that stood out above all the rest was definitely the coin flip scene in the gas station. It's a scene that just felt so awkward and uncomfortable. It's a prime example of that old cliché of wanting to look away but finding yourself unable to. Special mention must go to Bardem's co-star is this scene, Gene Jones. Together they create a scene of incredible tension. Perhaps that scene alone is enough to warrant Bardem his Oscar.

Oh and I rarely single out the cinematography in these little rantings and ravings of mine but I have to give special mention to Roger Deakins. Some of the images he frames are just beautiful, in particular the desert landscapes. They feel both otherworldly but also like the oldest thing on Earth, always here. Beautiful but also haunting.

I can certainly understand why the film won the Oscar for best film as on many technical levels it can be argued to be a perfect film. The acting, directing, cinematography and editing are all top notch. However, for me it was a film that started with a bang (Chigurh's violence) but ended with a bit of a whimper. Perhaps on a repeat viewing it won't disappoint and bother me as much. A friend of mine felt let down on first viewing, but after that just fell totally in love with it

Conclusion - A film that seemed on it's way to something special, but ultimately fell just a little bit short. At least for me.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Another few small reviews which I think clears my backlog of films to write about

Yojimbo / Sanjuro

Two highly enjoyable films from Akira Kurosawa as he reunites with one of the stars from The Seven Samurai, Toshiro Mifune.

Smartly written, wonderfully directed and with charismatic turns from Mifune as Sanjuro they are another couple of cracking samurai efforts from Kurosawa. They are both very good films but I would perhaps slightly give the edge to Sanjuro. Yojimbo is perhaps the 'better' film but with Sanjuro emphasising more comedy than its predecessor I found it more 'enjoyable.' I was actually quite surprised by just how much comedy there was, especially the odd moment where it approaches something slightly slapstick.

Oh and Yojimbo has a wonderful scene that I just loved. It's a fairly small moment but there was just something about it that put a big smile on my face. It's actually the opening scene where this wandering ronin comes to a crossroads and chooses his path by throwing a stick in the air, following the direction that it points him in. Just a small moment but which I felt perfectly captured the character and his motivations.

Yojimbo –
/ Sanjuro –



I don't know how well known this film is, or what the general feeling about it is, however I absolutely loved it! I just found it to be a fantastic, absorbing story right from the first moments.

Filmed in black and white and in location in New York city the film certainly looks great, really evoking the city in the 60s. The film also earns itself at least one or two stars for Walter Matthau alone. His performance as a quirky private detective is wonderful, an absolute joy. Sadly that means the film takes a big hit when he departs.

While it perhaps lacks the sophistication of a Hitchcock film it is certainly made in that same vein, and I just thought it was great fun.



Trading Places

While I still found this enjoyable I have to admit to being a bit disappointed as well. It didn't live up to my memory of it. I had even been thinking this was perhaps a film that could/should have just snuck into my top 100 but after going back to sadly not. It still has some funny moments and some great performances from the cast, Eddie Murphy in particular, but just not the classic comedy I remembered.



The Man in the White Suit

While this film still suffered from some of the same problems as Whisky Galore and Passport to Pimlico (old-fashioned, twee) it was on a different level to those two. It's not quite as cosy and quaint, bringing in a bit of clever satire. And it has a great finale as Guinness' character is chased through the streets by what has become essentially a lynch mob. What elevated this particular film however was probably the performance of Alec Guinness.

Mark told me I had to see some more of Alec Guinness' work. Having seen Bridge on River Kwai, Lavender Hill Mob and now this over the last few months I think you may be on to something Mark.

Great review of No Country, pretty much sums up my feelings about it exactly. Absolutely amazing technically and a completely awesome first two acts, then falls almost flat on its face. In my opinion, anyway. Disappointing but the first part gives it an 8 from me, too.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Great review of No Country, pretty much sums up my feelings about it exactly. Absolutely amazing technically and a completely awesome first two acts, then falls almost flat on its face. In my opinion, anyway. Disappointing but the first part gives it an 8 from me, too.
Thanks Skepsis. Always nice to feel appreciated. Though if you liked it so much where's my +rep?!!!

Just out of interest will you be gracing us with any more of your reviews some time soon? Seems like it's been a good long while

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
There Will Be Blood (2007)
first viewing

Director - Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring - Daniel Day-Lewis/ Paul Dano

"There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking.
I want to earn enough money I can get away from everyone."

You have to admire Paul Thomas Anderson. With There Will Be Blood he didn't just set out to make another film, it appears that he set out to make an epic. His aim was to produce an American masterpiece. Now whether you believe he achieved it or not, I think you at least have to admire the aspirations he had.

Anderson tells the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a silver prospector who stumbles into the world of oil and becomes determined to conquer that world, and crush all those who dare stand against him. Following a tip he heads out to a small town which hides an ocean of oil beneath it, looking to make his fortune with his son H.W. along for the ride. All is not plain sailing however as he clashes with a young, charismatic preacher (Paul Dano) and has to deal with an accident that leaves his son deaf. An incident that drives a wedge between the two.

Daniel Day Lewis gives a truly great performance as Daniel Plainview. Along with just his general performance he imbues the character with both a great voice and a really distinctive walk. However after all the praise and awards it earned him I was expecting it. So as a result the performance that really grabbed and surprised me was Paul Dano's as the young preacher, Eli Sunday. So much so that I consider it a shame he did not receive more nominations for his work. From the looks of him it might not seem like much of a rivalry can be had against the imposing character that is Daniel Plainview, but his performance makes Eli seem like a worthy adversary and protagonist; someone who is able to get under Plainview's skin. I particularly enjoyed when the character gets in front of his congregation and gets into the full swing of his showman persona, when he starts preaching and healing. It's just a shame for him he isn't around in the age of TV; he's a born televangelist. “Send me your money and you shall be saved!”

And it's just as well that these two central performances are so strong, as there are very few other significant roles to be found. For a film whose running time goes for more than two and a half hours that's quite surprising, and quite an achievement. It may not quite be a strict two-hander but it's not far off.

For long stretches the film can actually be quite quiet and subdued (for example for the first 15 minutes there is hardly a word spoken) but it doesn't matter due to the combination of the beautiful cinematography, stirring score and Lewis' strong, charismatic performance. All of which keeps your attention gripped to the screen.

The film can be seen both as a rather small personal tale, but also as something more epic in scope. While it is a story of greed, religion, family and in many ways how America was built on enterprise and religion it is also the story of two men, both dangerously ambitious. Though they seem set up to be polar opposites they are actually like two peas in a pod. You have the greedy oilman; a cynical capitalist who is driven by pride and a sheer contempt for everyone, leading him down a road of loneliness and misery. And opposing him you have the supposedly righteous man of God: a slick, sanctimonious young man who just loves his own voice, and is willing to denounce his faith in the end for his own financial well-being.

And when their respective egos clash there are fireworks each and every time. What really shows their similarity is the replaying of specific moments, but with the roles reversed – slapping each other, and their forced declarations to God. Both men revelling in their power over the other at the time, relishing seeing their opponent in a weak position.

By tying these characters so closely together it certainly isn't the most pro-religion film you'll ever see. In this story we see no difference between the greedy, competition-driven oilman and the healing preacher spreading the word of God. They are both snake-oil salesman promising a better world for the people they meet; as long as they either allow the oil business into their territory, or accept God into their lives.

At about the halfway stage the character of Daniel Plainview changes, as does the whole tone and direction of the film. Having appeared to be a fairly normal businessman who just has a drive to succeed up till this point: he then reveals himself to be a horrific, ruthless monster. A man who seems disgusted with anyone he meets; anyone who isn't him. A fact he himself admits. And I personally saw this as the reason for the fracture that occurs in his relationship with H.W. While he does appear to exploit H.W. predominantly as a prop at times to sell his business and himself to people, he did appear to care for him. However I think he saw H.W. as a chance to mould another version of himself, so that there would be at least one more person he could admire and relate to. And I think he wants and indeed needs this, as is showed by his very quick acceptance of his 'brother'. But when his son became deaf not only did he lose his prop but he saw that chance disappear. H.W. was now destined to be just like everybody else.

There are some truly wonderful scenes throughout, whether it be due to the visuals on show or the acting. For me the best and most powerful scene however is the accident and subsequent fire at the derrick. It's an incredible scene both for how it looks and what it tells us about the character of Daniel Plainview. When his son is thrown through the air he is genuinely concerned for H.W.'s wellbeing. He quickly leaves however to return to the scene of the fire. Now at first this can be seen as purely just trying to stop a possible catastrophe, one that could cost the lives of more people. But even after the fire is put out he does not rush back to his son's side as you would expect, he stays to relish in the discovery of the oil and his future wealth, and to bathe in the glory. As the sky turns black with smoke the light that it creates is incredible, creating a truly surreal and unique atmosphere. The eerie orange glow makes it feel like the very fires of hell itself are surrounding Plainview. And perhaps they are, as from here on out Daniel seems to be on a downward spiral.

Another of the great successes of the film is how it wonderfully evokes the early 1900s era in which it is set. The sets, scenery and costumes are all magnificent. Even all of the actors look like they just belong in that period. And the in-depth attention to detail given to the workings of the oil drilling just help to fully immerse us in this world that Anderson has created.

I now come to the ending which I am still a little conflicted about. The vocal sparring between Lewis and Dano is absolutely fantastic, one of the best dialogue scenes I've seen in a long time. However it then comes to the incident that ends the movie (won't reveal it here for anyone who hasn't seen it). On the plus side it is extremely memorable and powerful finale, as well as surprising. And it's always nice to be surprised by the ending to a film. On the negative side however I wondered if it just felt a little too cartoonish. I'm unsure if it works tonally with everything that has come before or if I find it a little bit jarring. I've been going back and forth about it for the last few days since seeing the film, and for the moment I think I've come down on the positive side of things..

Conclusion – At the start of this review I mentioned that Anderson appeared to be aspiring to create a masterpiece. So did he succeed? I'm not sure, and I'm certainly not going to state definitively whether he did or not after just one viewing. What I will say is that it's one hell of an effort, and a hell of a good film. One that I would have given the edge to over No Country for Old Men in the Oscar race.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
first viewing

Director - Andrew Dominick
Starring - Brad Pitt/ Casey Affleck/ Sam Rockwell

"Can’t figure it out: do you want to be like me or do you want to be me?"

Jesse James was an outlaw. A robber of trains and banks. A gang leader. And a murderer. And yet somehow many people still idolise him as a great anti-hero. An almost mythical American outlaw. This film attempts to answer the question of why this is. And it does a very good job of helping us understand it.

The main strength of the film is undoubtedly the two lead performances of Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt. Though they are playing two very different characters both give very effective showings. Brad Pitt as James proves to be one cold bastard! It's a performance that reminds me a touch of Tom Cruise's turn in Collateral; all piercing eyes and glowering stares, which he occasionally interrupts with an insincere laugh or smile. It's a character that really is flirting on the edge of sanity, seemingly ready to cross over at any point. And when the wheels come off Pitt delivers a truly terrifying, cackling laugh. For all his movie star looks and squeeky clean, nice guy image these seem to be the kind of roles that actually suit Pitt best, at least for me. Up to this the most impressed I had been with him was in Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club. Again two characters who were slightly unhinged

As good as Pitt is however, for me he is outshone by Casey Affleck. His Robert Ford is a twitchy, neurotic oddball; a bit of a weakling who at the same time comes across as quite cunning and calculating at times. It really is quite an impressively layered performance. I have to say I found myself having great empathy with the character of Robert Ford (a lot of it due to Affleck's performance), and as such found it a really quite sad, melancholic film.

Following my recent viewing of No Country for Old Men, cinematographer Roger Deakins yet again produces some truly stunning work. The landscapes and horizons he shows us are truly beautiful. They just come across as such desolate and sad places. The muted and at times washed out tones give the film the look of those old, faded photos that exist from the time of the Old West.

The film also works as an early example of celebrity. You have the charismatic and famous James, the obsessive fan in Ford and what eventually happens between the two, as the fan turns on the man who once idolised. We then see the classic 15 minutes of fame play out, the waning of celebrity. Ford goes from packing out houses where the audience rapturously applaud his actions, to being called a coward. As he himself says, “You know what I expected...applause.” The fact that Jesse is played by celebrity superstar Brad Pitt, and Ford by the relatively unknown Casey Affleck just works perfectly for it.

The psychology between James and Ford is really quite fascinating. James seems to come to the realisation that he is not long for this world. With all the enemies on his tail and even a lack of trust in those around him he knows he is a hunted man, he knows his fate. And as such it seems like he wants to be the one who engineers his death. He pokes and prods at Ford, almost encouraging him to take matters into his own hands, in a way moulding him. And then he sets up his actual death. He lays down his guns and allows himself to get shot in the back, ensuring that he would be remembered as a sympathetic martyr, and Ford a cowardly villain.

The film frequently takes on an almost dreamlike state The camera goes to soft focus, the clouds move across the sky in time lapse, the ethereal mournful score plays as the lyrical narration plays over. It all feels very fitting for a film about a man who has crossed that threshold into something of myth and legend. It all feels very meditative and languid, evoking the feel of a Terrence Mallick picture.

The film generated minuscule business at the box office and was not universally adored and I can understand why. It certainly takes its time to tell its story (or is painfully slow depending on your view ) and has a distinct lack of action when compared to many westerns, and other versions of the Jesse James story in particular. I think that actually helps to get across the idea that these killers, and Jesse especially, were able to go on and become something of a mythology. It would be hard to understand it if every five minutes you saw him blow away some helpless innocent.

Conclusion - An impressive, laudable film. Perhaps not the action-packed feature some may originally thought they'd get when they heard about Brad Pitt starring in a Western as Jesse James, but it turns out for the best. In terms of the 2008 Oscar ceremony for best film I'd have placed this second behind There Will Be Blood, but ahead of No Country for Old Men.


Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Nice write-up. People really like this film, but I still don't know why. I guess I'll paraphrase Gordon Gecko in Wall Street here: "Boring is Good!" But Boring is in the Eye of the Beholder, isn't it? I can't help but think it would be twice as good if there was an hour less. Sorry. I'd nominate it for Cinematography obviously (although I actually thought that Deakins' work in No Country For Old Men was worthier that year), but not much else.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
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