Skip to main content

Reviews Archive - D


FEATURING:

Daywatch
Death Proof
Despicable Me
Doctor Zhivago
Dogma
Dougal and the Blue Cat
Dr. No
Dr. Strangelove
Duplicity

Daywatch
(2006)

Director Timur Bekmambetov is tremendously talented but, while the script has imagination in spades, it is also frequently narratively incoherent (and gets bogged down in stuff that's just not that interesting; the whole scene at the party).

***


Death Proof
(2007)

Tarantino at his self-indulgent worst. The man who rediscovered Travolta now introduces us to Zoe Bell, a stuntwoman who cannot act for toffee. 

The first half is aimless, meandering and worst of all boring. It seems to be there so Quentin can “prove” to us he can write for women. Rather than, y’know constructing a solid story. Even the car chases aren't all that. The more time goes by, the more I think Roger Avary should be getting a lot more credit for Pulp Fiction than he does.


*

Despicable Me
(2010)

Occasionally impressive set pieces, but mostly this is a rather laborious riff on Dr Evil. Except, instead of having a child he adopts three of them. The premise reeks of potential for milking mawkishness and cutsey kids, and true to form it's not shy in that department.

**1/2


Doctor Zhivago
(1965)

As engrossing and beautifully made as you expect from David Lean, but it falls short of his very best work. 

The documentaries on the blu-ray comments on how it was the intention for Zhivago to be a passive character, but it has the counter-mechanism of puncturing some of the film's energy. It's the '60s darlings that really make a mark; Tom Courtney and Julie Christie. Alec Guinness looks like he's auditioning for Grand Moff Tarkin in the framing scenes.


****

Dogma 
(1999)

A sloppy mess, like the faecal creature. Fertile subject matter from which to mine laughs, but ham-fisted and (surprise!) puerile in execution. The Weinsteins got cold feet because it was controversial? They should have got cold feet because it was shit.

*


Dougal and the Blue Cat 
(1970)

The feature length Magic Roundabout that isn't a misbegotten CGI remake, this showcases Eric Thompson's wit and imagination wonderfully. 

Dougal is up against evil Buxton and must endure his friends' rapture with the titular moggy, resist a room full of sugar and take a trip to the Moon. Fenella Fielding's Blue Queen occupies the disused treacle factory at the top of the hill and all manner of strangeness ensues.

*****

Dr No
(1962)

Fairly undercharged first Bond outing, and considerably more entertaining before the titular character makes his entrance. The cold-blooded Connery moments are especially enjoyable (killing Dent). Quarrel's demise is particularly unfair (but so was MacNee's in A View to a Kill) since he's a winning sidekick.

***

Dr Strangelove
(1964)

It’s difficult to find anything new to say about Kubrick’s apocalyptic satire, except that the Russian ambassador is clearly corpsing when Strangelove is struggling with his uncontrollable arm. 

The best scene is probably Muffley's call to the Russian premier, all played on Sellers' reactions. But I love Keenan Wynn's utterly thick Colonel Bat Guano.

*****

Duplicity
(2009)

Nice to see a caper for movie for adults, but for all of the tricksiness with the plotting it's not as clever as it would like to be. 

The twists are fairly transparent, but Gilroy's direction, as with the superior Michael Clayton, is refreshingly crisp and clear in style. The leads are dependable but don’t have the chemistry of the classic couples that Gilroy is hearkening back to.


***1/2

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mondo bizarro. No offence man, but you’re in way over your head.

The X-Files 8.7: Via Negativa I wasn’t as down on the last couple of seasons of The X-Files as most seemed to be. For me, the mythology arc walked off a cliff somewhere around the first movie, with only the occasional glimmer of something worthwhile after that. So the fact that the show was tripping over itself with super soldiers and Mulder’s abduction/his and Scully’s baby (although we all now know it wasn’t, sheesh ), anything to stretch itself beyond breaking point in the vain hope viewers would carry on dangling, didn’t really make much odds. Of course, it finally snapped with the wretched main arc when the show returned, although the writing was truly on the wall with Season 9 finale The Truth . For the most part, though, I found 8 and 9 more watchable than, say 5 or 7. They came up with their fair share of engaging standalones, one of which I remembered to be Via Negativa .

Isn’t it true, it’s easier to be a holy man on the top of a mountain?

The Razor’s Edge (1984) (SPOILERS) I’d hadn’t so much a hankering as an idle interest in finally getting round to seeing Bill Murray’s passion project. Partly because it seemed like such an odd fit. And partly because passion isn’t something you tend to associate with any Murray movie project, involving as it usually does laidback deadpan. Murray, at nigh-on peak fame – only cemented by the movie he agreed to make to make this movie – embarks on a serious-acting-chops dramatic project, an adaptation of W Somerset Maugham’s story of one man’s journey of spiritual self-discovery. It should at least be interesting, shouldn’t it? A real curio? Alas, not. The Razor’s Edge is desperately turgid.

Schnell, you stinkers! Come on, raus!

Private’s Progress (1956) (SPOILERS) Truth be told, there’s good reason sequel I’m Alright Jack reaps the raves – it is, after all, razor sharp and entirely focussed in its satire – but Private’s Progress is no slouch either. In some respects, it makes for an easy bedfellow with such wartime larks as Norman Wisdom’s The Square Peg (one of the slapstick funny man’s better vehicles). But it’s also, typically of the Boulting Brothers’ unsentimental disposition, utterly remorseless in rebuffing any notions of romantic wartime heroism, nobility and fighting the good fight. Everyone in the British Army is entirely cynical, or terrified, or an idiot.

It’s not as if she were a… maniac, a raving thing.

Psycho (1960) (SPOILERS) One of cinema’s most feted and most studied texts, and for good reason. Even if the worthier and more literate psycho movie of that year is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom . One effectively ended a prolific director’s career and the other made its maker more in demand than ever, even if he too would discover he had peaked with his populist fear flick. Pretty much all the criticism and praise of Psycho is entirely valid. It remains a marvellously effective low-budget shocker, one peppered with superb performances and masterful staging. It’s also fairly rudimentary in tone, character and psychology. But those negative elements remain irrelevant to its overall power.

You have done well to keep so much hair, when so many’s after it.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) (SPOILERS) Hitherto, I was most familiar with Jeremiah Johnson in the form of a popular animated gif of beardy Robert Redford smiling and nodding in slow zoom close up (a moment that is every bit as cheesy in the film as it is in the gif). For whatever reason, I hadn’t mustered the enthusiasm to check out the 1970s’ The Revenant until now (well, beard-wise, at any rate). It’s easy to distinguish the different personalities at work in the movie. The John Milius one – the (mythic) man against the mythic landscape; the likeably accentuated, semi-poetic dialogue – versus the more naturalistic approach favoured by director Sydney Pollack and star Redford. The fusion of the two makes for a very watchable, if undeniably languorous picture. It was evidently an influence on Dances with Wolves in some respects, although that Best Picture Oscar winner is at greater pains to summon a more sensitive portrayal of Native Americans (and thus, perversely, at times a more patr

My Doggett would have called that crazy.

The X-Files 9.4: 4-D I get the impression no one much liked Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), but I felt, for all the sub-Counsellor Troi, empath twiddling that dogged her characterisation, she was a mostly positive addition to the series’ last two years (of its main run). Undoubtedly, pairing her with Doggett, in anticipation of Gillian Anderson exiting just as David Duchovny had – you rewatch these seasons and you wonder where her head was at in hanging on – made for aggressively facile gender-swapped conflict positions on any given assignment. And generally, I’d have been more interested in seeing how two individuals sympathetic to the cause – her and Mulder – might have got on. Nevertheless, in an episode like 4-D you get her character, and Doggett’s, at probably their best mutual showing.

You’re a disgrace, sir... Weren’t you at Harrow?

Our Man in Marrakesh aka Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (1966) (SPOILERS) I hadn’t seen this one in more than three decades, and I had in mind that it was a decent spy spoof, well populated with a selection of stalwart British character actors in supporting roles. Well, I had the last bit right. I wasn’t aware this came from the stable of producer Harry Alan Towers, less still of his pedigree, or lack thereof, as a sort of British Roger Corman (he tried his hand at Star Wars with The Shape of Things to Come and Conan the Barbarian with Gor , for example). More legitimately, if you wish to call it that, he was responsible for the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu flicks. Our Man in Marrakesh – riffing overtly on Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana in title – seems to have in mind the then popular spy genre and its burgeoning spoofs, but it’s unsure which it is; too lightweight to work as a thriller and too light on laughs to elicit a chuckle.

The best thing in the world for the inside of a man or a woman is the outside of a horse.

Marnie (1964) (SPOILERS) Hitch in a creative ditch. If you’ve read my Vertigo review, you’ll know I admired rather than really liked the picture many fete as his greatest work. Marnie is, in many ways, a redux, in the way De Palma kept repeating himself in the early 80s only significantly less delirious and… well, compelling. While Marnie succeeds in commanding the attention fitfully, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. And Hitch, digging his heels in as he strives to fashion a star against public disinterest – he failed to persuade Grace Kelly out of retirement for Marnie Rutland – comes entirely adrift with his leads.

I tell you, it saw me! The hanged man’s asphyx saw me!

The Asphyx (1972) (SPOILERS) There was such a welter of British horror from the mid 60s to mid 70s, even leaving aside the Hammers and Amicuses, that it’s easy to lose track of them in the shuffle. This one, the sole directorial effort of Peter Newbrook (a cameraman for David Lean, then a cinematographer), has a strong premise and a decent cast, but it stumbles somewhat when it comes to taking that premise any place interesting. On the plus side, it largely eschews the grue. On the minus, directing clearly wasn’t Newbrook’s forte, and even aided by industry stalwart cinematographer Freddie Young (also a go-to for Lean), The Aspyhx is stylistically rather flat.

I don't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me.

North by Northwest (1959) (SPOILERS) North by Northwest gets a lot of attention as a progenitor of the Bond formula, but that’s giving it far too little credit. Really, it’s the first modern blockbuster, paving the way for hundreds of slipshod, loosely plotted action movies built around set pieces rather than expertly devised narratives. That it delivers, and delivers so effortlessly, is a testament to Hitchcock, to writer Ernest Lehmann, and to a cast who make the entire implausible exercise such a delight.