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2/10
A disaster movie severely hampered by unfortunate coincidences in the plot
21 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The plot concerns a family going hiking when there is a danger about, and forgetting to take their phones with them so they can't be warned. In this case the danger is a particularly vicious form of lightning, but the plot would work just as well if the danger was an escaped convict, paedophile, poisonous spider, chemical leak, earthquake or nuclear attack. I suspect that the lightning strikes attracted the filmmakers because of the ease of portraying them with special effects. A meteorologist predicts the lightning, but an unnecessary coincidence is introduced into the plot, in that the meteorologist and the father leading his family into the danger are one and the same. It is therefore unconvincing that he didn't make much use of his skills and specialised knowledge to recognise or respond to the storm conditions. And surely a meteorologist would check the forecast before heading out!

The film concentrated on the human dynamics arising from the recent marital breakup within the family, and how the relationships between the father's former and new partner develop as a result of them confronting adversity. This is an intriguing storyline, but it is rather undermined by the coincidence of his being the meteorologist.

This movie lacks sufficient spectacle to be an action movie. There are many shots of grey skies, housing estates, countryside, modern office buildings and cars being driven around in a safe manner which though laudable, does not contribute to an air of suspense. The preamble where the meteorologist presents his predictions to his boss and is rebuffed creates little drama as he does not suffer for long, but quickly decides to put rejection to good use and go on vacation. And he doesn't really gain the sympathies of the viewer as his office conditions appear to be very plush and uncluttered, suggesting no one in the organisation is putting too much effort or concern into their research.

While watching the movie the scientific basis for the super- lightning seemed unconvincing, but I was surprised when a brief search on the topic revealed that the "positive lightning" referred to does exist.

Overall, this isn't too exciting a movie, but I didn't see anything in it that would be beyond the scope of amateur movie makers, and shows just what could be done with the most limited of resources.
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The Price of a Broken Heart (1999 TV Movie)
5/10
A true story provides an excuse for an unconvincing film
25 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This film is based on a true story arising from the use of an obscure old law enabling prosecution to be brought when an adulterous relationship develops. The true story provides a prop for the film to fend off criticism, without which I feel it would be unconvincing and would probably not have been made.

The legal issues take second place in the film, with far more flashbacks to the couple and the affair than time in the court room. If you are hoping for a courtroom drama you will be disappointed, with the mechanics of the trial, and any scenes in the jury room being left out. The question of the standard of proof required to distinguish a woman aiming to break up a marriage, from a woman falling in love with a married man is touched on only lightly.

The film undermines its own structure by putting the end of the trial at the start of the film, and putting the story in as flashbacks. The affair is played out in an entirely predictable manner, with the scenes of deceit, eventual confession and divorce that you might expect. There are only two possible outcomes and when the verdict arrives I felt that it appeared somewhat arbitrary and doesn't justify the wait. There is no major plot point introducing conflict, other than the obvious one of adultery and the legal issue, which are known to the viewer right from the start.

It is played as a comedy as well as a drama - the central characters in the love triangle are deadly serious, but the office workers are played larger than life, for comedic effect. This implies that the film- makers took the view, probably correctly, that it is a somewhat absurd law. Adultery may be wrong, but it is only possible with the consent of the wayward spouse who must share in the blame. So although the premise of the film is an intriguing and original one, the film doesn't present it as one that the viewer can really care about and this limits the emotional impact that the film can ultimately achieve.
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8/10
Engrossing tale of a Mr Everyman being drawn into crime
14 September 2015
This film is based on a theme I find intriguing, in which someone ordinary, in this case a young author, is drawn into crime through events. You can continue to debate with yourself throughout the film whether Peter Darwin was really a criminal; would he have received a fair trial in 1950's Britain; if he had gone to the police would he have been believed. Right through the film new facets are revealed about the characters Kay Murch and Peter Darwin as the plot presents them with successive dilemmas. The film stands up well even after the change in public attitudes to morality over the last sixty years, yet it is also interesting to see the attitudes of the time revealed through the reactions of the bit players.

I would say the acting was very good from all players, with camera- work and lighting presenting it very well. Sound is good, with the excellent diction you expect in films of that age. Well worth a watch to see the locations of the time in London and in the countryside, as well as an absorbing crime drama told from the perspective of the people involved, not the police investigating.
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Nuclear Hurricane (2007 TV Movie)
5/10
Entertaining and pacey
11 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Not quite as bad as I expected, because the basic theme, of computer security mechanisms locking out the legitimate user having unintended consequences is a real, ever-present threat in our everyday lives, affecting everything from internet banking to software licensing. Because computers can never be programmed to deal reasonably with unforeseen circumstances, there needs to be recourse to a human authority to overrule them.

This film imagines that such a situation arises in the control of nuclear power and a hurricane prevents human intervention by those in authority. Seeing how the people involved deal with the situation is inherently interesting, because it involves issues of just what levels of power should computers be given over people at different levels of authority.

The film tries to juxtaposition personal relationships with corporate hierarchy; worker rivalry against the common the struggle against nature. It is pacey and entertaining, but the development of the premise is a bit superficial, diluting it by making the the cause of the computer behaviour the crazily inept programming by one of the characters, rather than the struggle of workers to exercise the powers they need when their jobs unexpectedly demand that they take on great responsibilities.

Made in 2007, this film holds up well as the theme is just as relevant today.
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7/10
Engaging Movie that adds some human drama to the mechanics of submarine warfare
22 November 2014
From humble beginnings this movie proved to be fairly engrossing, because you can't be sure which way it will go. It creates characters with some real human characteristics, both good and bad, and you will keep watching to find out just how they measure up to the rigours of submarine warfare. Sure it is low budget, but it still manages more realism and is more believable than many of today's Hollywood blockbusters.

No problem with the sound quality or general image quality, and the battle scenes and submarine manoeuvres are fairly impressive. Some of the opening scenes which try to inject a bit of levity will seem a bit forced and dated to today's eyes, but this film is unusual in that it gets better as it proceeds, with the best bits at the end.
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10/10
One of my best loved science fiction stories
16 November 2014
One of my best loved science fiction stories, in the way it weaves together legend and science to create a story that is believable and complete. As an atheist, believing that all things run according to physical laws, the world can seem cold and uninspiring. If science fiction can offer an hour or three of escapism in which devils, martians, ghosts and aliens can really exist then I really treasure it. This story succeeds admirably, with the plot reaching back to ancient history as well as recent history, making the premise real and relevant. Cleverly, the audience is always ahead of the dry establishment insisting to the end that the discovery is just some super V2, but behind Quatermass in piecing together the awful truth about the hull and its occupants. I have seen the 1967 film and appreciate both versions, but this low resolution version leaves more to the imagination and is therefore all the more powerful.
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9/10
After watching this, if you ever think about the early days of drilling for oil, you will remember this film
25 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In this film you will see oil drilling at the turn of the twentieth century with an authenticity, detail and vividness which is breathtaking. The craftsmanship in the making of this film achieves an incredible realism in the oil derricks and equipment so that you are not left feeling that you can see the joins and feeling cheated. The DVD I have has a 15-minute extra which relates clips from the film with actual photographs taken during the period, so you can see the degree of accuracy achieved.

But the film is strong on many layers, not just the documentary but also the presentation of real characters you can identify with so that you experience, not just see, the hardship, danger and brutality of the time and place. The characters are real and multi-faceted, with the plot being driven by logic rather than the political goals of the film makers.

The film does have a few flaws, one of which is having Paul Dano playing both Paul Sunday and his brother Eli. Paul Sunday is instrumental in tipping off Danial about the new oil field on his family's land, and I kept waiting for him to reappear. However the actor is now playing Eli and everyone's forgotten about Paul's existence. And there are a few gaps - how did Danial get to the Assayer's office with a broken leg? But the bottom line is that this is a film I won't forget. Before seeing it, if I thought of early oil drilling I would remember "Boom Town" (1940) but from now on I will think of "There will Be Blood".
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3/10
Glaring Problems with Plausibility Stop this Being Scary
4 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To start with the bottom line, it wasn't scary at all! Now this isn't because I'm hard - I had to turn off the television during "Wrong Turn". And I am usually good at being able to suspend disbelief in order to become immersed in a film. But there were problems with this film that prevented me being absorbed, so I could not have an emotional reaction to it.

The scenes are very repetitive. Text appears telling us the "night number". Then there are six seconds of silence while they sleep with the room quite brightly lit (I couldn't do that - I need blackout blinds and all lights off). Then the ghost starts making a noise. In later scenes it does a bit more. I couldn't stop asking myself why the ghost is pacing himself - why not polish her off on night #1? If he's going to leave teeth marks, why not go for broke? There is no depth to the plot. We are never told why Katie spends her life being followed around by a ghost. Neither Katie nor Micah spend any time trying to find out. Nor do they try to protect themselves. They don't lock the bedroom door or even shut it. They don't lose sleep over it, so why should we? Compare this to "The Hills Have Eyes". There we have nuclear weapons testing and McCarthy era paranoia as a foundation to give the human drama real depth. And the characters react realistically to the perils as they arise.

The acting is good "in the small" in that Katie acts the part of the hysterical female convincingly and realistically. But when Katie complains about the camera we know that she won't be getting her way because then there would be no movie. The house is unrealistically uncluttered, brand new and spotlessly clean. I found out from the special features on the DVD that the house had been remodelled for the movie with for example, upmarket banisters. I think it looked too expensive and luxurious for the youngsters.

The "filmed-by-the-characters-in-the-plot" format may be acting as a constraint here. It worked well in "Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield" but here it is all too obvious. By the time Micah is sprinkling powder around to check for footprints, the ghost has already demonstrated intelligence, physical powers, and control over Katie's mind. It isn't believable that Micah would think the ghost would not be able to either leap over the powder or sweep up after him.

And the format is not so new after all - check out "The Ghost Camera" 1933!
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Dakota Road (1992)
10/10
Hell can Exist in the most Heavenly of Places
26 December 2009
Having spent some time myself beneath, and also flying in, the vast skies of East Anglia, I can confirm that this film has captured the setting faithfully. Not just the stunning visual panoramas of vast open fields, but the almost medieval relationship which still exists between landowner and farm labourer. The characters are typical of the landscape but not stereotypical - in fact they are presented with considerable depth and there are some surprises. The overriding theme seems to be of a rural way of life under attack almost to extinction. A remote area it may be, but modern attitudes to sex and the environment must reach there eventually. But the ability of the characters to respond to these issues is severely limited by the harsh economic realities of life. It seems that they are living in a straitjacket so unbearable that their only escape is to retreat into themselves so that they don't communicate. At times I found myself trying to will one of the Crosses to open up and meet Bernard half way when he tries to talk to them.

Most people in the UK struggle to afford a home large enough for themselves and their possessions, so it is something of a shock to see the Cross family who can only afford to sparsely furnish their tied cottage. This film has stunning cinematography, not only outside, but in scenes inside the Cross's home, where natural evening light and artificial light are mixed to link up the inside and outside. For many of us the idea of all this space both inside and out seems like heaven, but this film shows us how hell can exist in the most heavenly of surroundings.

I think this film succeeds on many levels, with plot twists which are unexpected yet are deeply rooted and consistent with the underlying theme. It is structured as strictly linear narrative which allows the viewer to become completely absorbed in the story (no bits of text coming up saying "Six Months Earlier" for example). The acting is very realistic, and it is filmed in a very professional and watchable style. Still very relevant, I agree with other commentators that this film should have had more exposure. Can we have another viewing on TV please? Or even a DVD?
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Ned Kelly (2003)
2/10
A real chore to watch
15 August 2009
From the very beginning, the political theme of this film is so obvious and heavy handed, that the outcome is entirely predictable. Any good textbook on writing screenplays will advise layering of characters, incorporating character arcs, and three act structure. In this film you will find none of that. The police are the baddies, and consequently are shown as shallow, incompetent and cowards. It never seems to occur to the makers of this film that police might be honourable citizens who see joining the police as a good way to contribute to the wellbeing of society.

The viewer gets no opportunity to make up his or her mind on whether Ned Kelly is a good guy or a ruthless villain. The film opens with him being arrested for stealing a horse, but we get no clue as to his guilt or innocence. We see him walk through the door of a gaol, but only know that he has been inside for three years when we hear this much later in some dialogue.

This film contains many shots of Ned looking at the camera with a serious expression. I found the film a real chore to watch. It is the direction for modern films, and this one put me off watching any more.
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From Hell (2001)
1/10
A story of Victorian London told without empathy
7 June 2009
Unfortunately I found this film a real chore to watch. Perhaps the directors, coming from Detroit, do not have enough connection with England and have not recognised this and obtained the assistance they need, but their portrayal of Victorian London is very much a cliché. The outside scenes look studio bound, with the sky always blood red, not at all typical of England's Gray skies. In one scene a drunk is dragged across the ground, drawing attention to the ground being far too clean to be realistic. In one scene there is a break-in, with a hand reaching in through a window to open a highly polished brass lock. So much for the image of Victorian London as a dirty place where the population is more interested in drinking, prostitutes and other vices than in good housekeeping! There are a large number of identical characters - stunning looking prostitutes in bright dresses often giving an articulate discourse on how hard done by they are, and evil men in sober suits slashing them in dark alleyways. The film is shot from a 21st century liberal perspective, not with the values of the time.

It is a few weeks since I watched this movie and I cannot say that I recollect the plot. But I can remember that I didn't find the movie worthwhile to watch at the time.
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7/10
A more human, religious perspective on the zombie theme
7 June 2009
Unlike "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), this film gives more emphasis to the religious and cultural basis for the zombies themselves. The film makes the most of the isolated desert location, using coloured filters and music with a South American feel to create an expectation of the zombies presence before we see them for real. The plot has plenty of twists, and the unusually, the film becomes increasingly absorbing as it progresses.

Admittedly, the production values are low, with music cutting in and out on scene changes in a distracting manner and special affects which are not only cheap, but unimaginative. However, this is made up for by good acting, makeup and authenticity in the interior scenes. Amanda Baumann plays the lead role in a convincing manner. Her character has a number of original facets that give her character a depth, so that you can't guess how things will turn out and keep watching.

As often happens with movies that have a supernatural dimension, the fact that supernatural means that things do not correspond to nature give the filmmaker the excuse to ignore logic and plausibility. We therefore see quite a few scenes that defy logic, and the viewer will have to be prepared to make allowances.

Overall, despite its limitations, I found it quite compelling to watch through to the the end.
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Time and Again (2004 Video)
9/10
Entertaining, intelligent movie
10 April 2009
A film from an independent movie producer really has to excel in plot, acting and production values to be taken seriously, but surprisingly, this film is successful in all three departments. Brian Ireland is convincing as Bobby Jones and gives a powerful performance - it is a pity that this film appears to be his only acting role, because he clearly has a talent which is worth pursuing. Similarly, Bob Darby gives an authentic portrayal as Sheriff Karl, but he has not acted before or since - do these people not want to act in more movies? The cinematography is very stylish and professional, and overall the film works - you don't want to tear yourself away and want to know what happens next. The reconstruction of 1950's America is very thorough, though perhaps a bit too neat and tidy to be totally convincing. The plot involved a miscarriage of justice which I found difficult to accept as entirely plausible, but overall the plot is intelligent, original and complete. Overall a satisfying movie which has the advantage of being only an hour long.
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9/10
An Original War Story depicted vividly and intelligently
29 March 2009
I have heard it said that this film is low budget, but if this is so then the budget is well spent. A great deal of skill is employed in making weapons, equipment and their use realistic. The battle scenes are made so much more powerful by incorporating the details of actually using weapons; the difficulties of manoeuvring them into position; loading, aiming, repairing. This film leaves you with the feeling of having experienced rather than watched.

This film has a strong and original plot with many turns that you won't guess. The acting is realistic in the sense that each character is a component of the environment, fully integrated with it. This is something that big name actors just don't seem to want to do these days. The realism extends to the fundamentals of not taking sides - we see barbarism on both sides, and also see both sides demonstrating both military skill and failings.

The production values are first rate with excellent sound (you can hear every word) and cinematography which captures the stunning desert setting vividly (but without empty landscape scenes being used to pad the film out).

Its a film that maintains the interest throughout, and leaves a satisfied, worthwhile feeling to having watched it.
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