Score Card


Ennio (2022)

One of the great clichés available to the critic is the term “roller-coaster.” This is normally interpreted to mean that the film in question is a fast-moving, exhilarating experience with lots of emotional ups and downs. To this control freak – who’d rather undergo a marathon screening of all the “Fast & Furious” movies than go anywhere near a theme park – “roller-coaster” conjures up an entirely different meaning. It infers that the film is terrifying, nausea-inducing and only to be undertaken in order to impress somebody that you find attractive.

“Ennio” is in itself a bit of a roller-coaster but for different reasons. It starts calmly enough with the aged maestro Ennio Morricone undertaking his morning exercises – including press-ups that many men a third his age could not manage or be bothered with. But then the brakes are off and we are zipping along through the great composer’s life in a blur of archive footage, movie clips and so many different talking heads offering up opinions and anecdotes that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, even with the captions. “Game of Thrones” was a comparative cakewalk next to this. One emerges from “Ennio” disoriented and slightly breathless.

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Future to the Back

Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Brothers Pictures

Tenet (2020)

“Tenet” might not be the safest movie to release during such perilous times. For this is a film that demands repeat viewings – a dazzling puzzle box that you will need to see at least twice to comprehend, and even then there will still be gaps in your knowledge. Going once will simply not be enough as – virus be damned – you’ll feel compelled to go back for another look. Sure you could wait and stream “Tenet” at a later date, but this is a film that deserves the biggest of big screens. There will be online videos where the film will be salivated over and pulled apart like a hog roast, but relying on those is just cheating. Christopher Nolan spent years writing this thing so you owe it to him to do the detective work yourself. All you will need is a wipe-board, several different colored pens and a focus group of the world’s top physicists. Fear not reader, there will be no major spoilers in this review, for that would require me to know what the hell was going on in “Tenet” to start with.

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When the Rainbow's Over

David Hindley/Roadside Attractions

Judy (2019)

No amount of yellow bricks can hide the fact that we are on a familiar road with “Judy.” The film has a similar look and feel to 2018’s “Stan & Ollie,” with both movies following Hollywood legends experiencing hard times during the twilight of their careers. Where Laurel and Hardy battled changing audience tastes and deteriorating health, the trials faced by the late Judy Garland were partially self-inflicted. Where love and affection were absent in her life, the actress would often fill the void with pills and booze.

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Big Heat in a Lonely Place

Susie Allnutt/Sony Pictures Classics

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

This understated and affecting film signs off with its subject, golden-age screen star Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening), picking up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her part in “The Bad and the Beautiful.” Grahame makes just a brief visit to the stage – appropriate enough as she was only in the film for nine minutes – expresses thanks and slips off stage right. Given that this archive footage is the last thing we see before the credits roll, one could see it as a subliminal message drumming up support amongst Academy voters for Ms. Bening’s brilliant portrayal of the older Grahame. One can hardly begrudge her this shout out. Four nominations and not one golden boy on the shelf, not to mention being cruelly overlooked for her bravura turn in “20th Century Women.”

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Tempting Faith

The Monk (2011)


When the novel on which “The Monk” is based was first published in 1796, it caused a sensation thanks to both its salacious content and blatantly anti-Catholic stance. The author, Matthew Gregory Lewis, preferred unbridled passion to piety believing that a life following your natural desires was far better than one spent devoted to God. The Marquis de Sade was a big fan of the book, which is a sure sign that “The Monk” is not something to give your grandmother for Christmas.

Such a novel was bound to attract the attention of filmmakers; and there have been various attempts to bring the story to the screen. The most notable was a version scripted by Luis Buñuel which was released in 1972. Now it is Dominik Moll, director of the offbeat contemporary thrillers “Harry, He’s Here to Help” (released in the United States as “With a Friend Like Harry ...”) and “Lemming,” who brings us his own interpretation of a tale which leans heavily towards the Gothic.

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Love Will Tear Us Apart

The Hunger Games (2012)

Murray Close/Lionsgate

“The Hunger Games” takes place in a future comprised of disparate historical influences. The grand spectacle of the ancients sits in company with totalitarian oppression and the deprivations of recession-hit America. It is as if the apocalyptic conflict that created this dystopia had shattered time itself only for the remnants to be hastily glued back together by a deity on a busy schedule. Similarly, “The Hunger Games” is born from a myriad of cultural sources so that nothing in it can be classed as wholly original.

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An Icon Out of the Elementary

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Daniel Smith/Warner Brothers Pictures

The easiest way to digest “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is to pretend that the film does not concern the exploits of fiction’s finest detective at all. If one can convince oneself that Robert Downey Jr. is playing not Sherlock, but some rough-and-tumble Victorian adventurer — Indiana Holmes perhaps — then the film can be enjoyed, much like its predecessor, as a rambunctious but somewhat shallow romp. Naturally, one might notice the odd similarity between Conan Doyle’s creation and the hero of Guy Ritchie’s film; but that is surely mere coincidence.

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Printing All the News That's Fit

Page One: Inside The New York Times (2011)

Magnolia Pictures

In all the speculation over the probable death of newsprint, at least one aspect appears to have been overlooked: How will film and television cope if that great standby character, the investigative reporter, is forced into extinction? Who will have the dogged tenacity to hit the streets in order to uncover a trail of corruption that normally goes all the way to the top? Would "All the President's Men" have been so thrilling had Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein been able to sit back and wait for the latest tweet from Deep Throat or for video footage of the Watergate break-in to be posted on YouTube?

"Page One: Inside The New York Times" does not ask this question — at least not directly — but it still offers a pretty comprehensive debate on the rapid changes occurring in the world's media. Andrew Rossi and Kate Novack took a genuine fly-on-the-wall approach to their subject by pitching up inside the Times building and letting a variety of talking heads provide the commentary. These number not just employees of the Grey Lady, but also the likes of David Remnick from The New Yorker, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and even good old Mr. Bernstein himself.

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Down That Long, Loathsome Highway

Home (2008)

Soda Pictures

Some of you may feel that you live in a noisy neighborhood, but the family at the center of "Home" has really got problems. Its charmingly chaotic abode is located in the French countryside with no other buildings in sight. But sadly, it is also positioned slap bang on the side of a freeway which cuts an asphalt scar through the endless expanse of verdant field. This does not prove too much of an issue at first as the road is disused, work on it being inexplicably abandoned some 10 years before.

The brood - mother, father, two daughters and a son - has spilled out beyond the boundaries of its four walls onto the deserted highway, littering it with domestic debris including toys, white goods and even a satellite dish. This liberal-minded clan is very close. The members hold family meetings in the bathroom while their teenage daughter takes her ablutions. On hot summer evenings – which are plentiful – they sit together on a sofa in the garden watching television like an alfresco Simpsons.

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Between Love and Marriage, Something's Gotta Give

Cloud 9 (2008)

Soda Pictures

When it comes to the perennially prickly subject of sex and nudity on the cinema screen, opinion may be divided into three broad camps: those people who regard celluloid sex as wholly offensive and unacceptable, people who see such things as just part of modern filmgoing, and a certain contingent who regard on-screen copulation as a prerequisite to a fulfilling movie experience. Presumably this latter group prefer its bare flesh to be served tight, toned and youthful. In which case those filmgoers are in for a surprise if they watch “Cloud 9,” lured in by the promise of some steamy action. There is plenty of skin on show here, but it is all proudly wrinkled, saggy and well past 60.

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