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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

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Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

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The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

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Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

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