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Reviews by diogenes

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62 reviews/ratings - 4 pages (20 reviews/ratings per page)

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50 Ways of Saying Fabulous (2005)

The character I felt the greatest sympathy for was Roy (Jay Collins) - and everyone was unremittingly horrible to him throughout the entire movie! It was hard for me to feel much sympathy for the film's protagonist Billy (Andrew Patterson), though I quite liked Arch (George Mason). A very faithful adaptation of Graeme Aitken's novel. Definitely worth a view.

My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 7 / 10
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Aventuras de Juliancito (1969)

There was a time when Julián (Juliancito) Bravo was quite a star in Mexico. He was born in Spain but moved to Mexico when still quite young. His mother then took him to a casting for a TV commercial, hoping to get 200 pesos if he got the part. The boy left with just a bag of sweets, but was able to meet Jaime Jiménez Pons, who produced many television programmes at the time. This led to a number of parts, but what really catapulted him to fame was actually "Primera comunión" ("First Communion") (1969). In the same year, the public saw "La gran aventura", which cemented his celebrity status. As he moved into adolescence, however, his appeal seems to have diminished for the public, and the parts rapidly dried up. After leaving acting, he went on to have a family (including three children) of his own.

"Los Aventuras de Juliancito" is a modestly pleasing version of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer', and an excellent vehicle for Julián's acting talent, but devotees should definitely view "La gran aventura" (1969), which is now available on DVD with English subtitles.

My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 7 / 10
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The Believers (1987)

Some people have spoken a lot of rubbish about this movie, claiming that it constitutes a negative portrayal of the religion of Santaría. In fact, the movie distinguishes between Santaría and Brujería, and ascribes the murderous acts of the cultists to a version of the latter. There are a lot of classic, crowd-pleasing elements here: strange dances to drum music, hypnotic powers, blood sacrifices, etc. It is, in fact, an excellent follow-up to the classic "The Possession of Joel Delaney" (1972) from fifteen years previously. But the villains in this film are nearly all white yuppies. If the film is saying anything, it is saying that the rich white elites in the US and elsewhere will do anything to maintain their power and wealth, not excluding the sacrifice of their sons! I can well believe it! The acting is completely superb. Harley Cross is brilliant, a real talent. At nearly two hours it can seem quite long, but the pace and atmosphere is judged so well by the director that it never seems boring.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 8 / 10
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The Box of Delights (1984)

Based on the 1935 novel by John Masefield, this is perhaps the finest ever adaptation of a children's novel for a children's TV series on British television. A thoroughly boy-centred, thoroughly English story: suspicious foreigners, kidnapped choirboys, "the wolves are running", servants who know how to make a posset, Master Kay bonding with Herne the Hunter in a primordial English forest, a strange fusion of the Pagan and the Christian, the police presented as a bunch of incompetent fools who are good for nothing, and a Box of such delights....

Patrick Troughton (surely one of England's finest ever actors) adds gravitas to the proceedings, and Robert Stephens (another fine actor) hams it up beautifully as the evil Abner Brown. Kay Harker is wonderfully played by Devin Stanfield. Stanfield has a charm that is hard to describe, a sort of slight hesitancy in his gestures - perhaps something to do with his being on the cusp of puberty. Troughton was later to say of the young Devin that he believed that he was the boy John Masefield himself would have chosen to play the role of Kay. I think he was right.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 10 / 10
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Boy Slaves (1939)

RKO's hilariously inept attempt to come up with their own version of the Dead End Kids (one of the cast even looks like a rattier version of Bobby Jordan). The messy plot incorporates a great deal of moral earnestness, and the maudlin sentiment is laid on with a trowel. The boys attempt to reproduce the banter of the Dead End Kids, but it just comes across as weird. They meet Julian Clary driving a cart (no, really). The only thing to be said in favour of this film is that it really is so bad that it's frequently quite entertaining in its sheer maladroitness. Enjoy!

My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed Star 3 / 10
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The Boy (2015)

An absolutely superb movie - in fact, something of a modern masterpiece. The pace and direction is perfectly pitched to make this wonderfully atmospheric. Jared Breeze is such a star - a remarkable young actor; I think few boys could have pulled off his role as effectively as he did. I have to confess something, though. I couldn't help having some sympathy for the boy's actions at the climax of the film, given the way the adults treated him - particularly the young adults at the end. The tagline of the movie is "Evil always begins somewhere." Indeed, but what are we to say about the actions of those around him? To me, that was where the evil 'began'. But then it is a strength of this movie that it leaves you thinking about it afterwards. The statements on IMDb and elsewhere that this is a 'horror' movie are at the very least misleading. Although atmospherically creepy, it is more of a psychological study, and all the better for that. A truly remarkable film, and a definite 'must-see'.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 9 / 10
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Boyhood (2014)

There is no doubt that this film gets pretty dull. The problem is that the narrative revolves not so much around Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as around the adults - Mason's somewhat hippyish parents and particularly his mother's terrible choices of partner. Indeed, what is surprising is how little we learn in the first half of the film about Mason himself - what makes him tick, how he sees the world. The film samples events in his life - such as his getting a severe haircut at the hands of his mother's latest beau - but these pieces are too fragmentary to add up to a portrait. There is therefore no psychological development, just a series of events in his external life involving his parents and (later on) his sometime girlfriends, in what appears a somewhat privileged, if disordered, upbringing. He seems to go from lacklustre child to boring young adult via uncommunicative emo, and at no point do we actually care about him in the slightest.

I will admit that on the technical side the film is very good. It is put together remarkably well and Mason's (and his sister's) growing up is almost seamless. And the adult actors are all superb. But since this film is not really about its nominal protagonist but about the people around him, it isn't in fact about 'boyhood' at all. A disappointment.

Don't Bother My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed Star 3 / 10
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Burning Secret (1988)

Well, just to add my voice to the chorus of praise... This movie is essentially about a boy (Edmund, played by David Eberts) whose heart is broken by a man. All the actors (Klaus Maria Brandauer, Faye Dunaway, Ian Richardson) are completely wonderful, but David Eberts' performance is particularly outstanding. Add to this a gorgeous soundtrack, and an equally gorgeous setting and mise-en-scène, and you have the definitive version of Stefan Zweig's short story.

There was a German film (Brennendes Geheimnis, 1933) made of Zweig's story a very long time ago - and it was very good, and well worth watching. However, Andrew Birkin's film is so unutterably PERFECT in every respect that it is really impossible to imagine it ever being bettered. A masterpiece.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 10 / 10
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Bylo nás pet (1994)

Very Tom-Sawyer-ish, and a complete and utter delight from beginning to end. The young actors are all very personable. A masterpiece of Czech television. Unmissable.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 10 / 10
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Cesta z mesta (2000)

A very charming comedy (sort of), with some great characters (I loved the character of the granny!), and a lot of father-son bonding, as both father and son learn the virtues of a less frenetic pace of life in the country. The film also shows in an early skinny dipping scene that, in 2000, Czech film-making (and, presumably, the Czech cinema-going public) had yet to be infected with modern prudery. Michal Vorel is delightful as Honzík. Highly recommended.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 8 / 10
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Cider With Rosie (2015)

Very poor indeed. The original novel has been totally occluded by modern ideology and modern puritanism. Archie Cox is far too old for the elder Laurie anyway - all the schoolkids look far too old to still be at school, especially as the school-leaving age was much lower a century ago than it is now. The scene where Laurie plays 'doctors and nurses' with a local girl has been replaced by a scene where the older Laurie plays the same game with a woman rather than a girl - and even then the woman keeps some of her clothes on. The whole thing is risible in its prudery. This film is nothing more than a sad testament to the decline of civilisation over the last 50 years. The 1998 version was fine, but the 1971 version is really the definitive version - absolutely perfect. No need to bother with this steaming pile of feminist crap.

Don't Bother My Movie Rating: Red Star 1 / 10
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Dobro pozhalovat, ili postoronnim vkhod vospreshchyon (1964)

An utterly brilliant satire on Soviet bureaucracy, produced during the period of 'the Thaw' (roughly 1954-66) in the USSR. In the opening scene kids at a Summer camp are allowed to swim - but only in an area the size of a postage stamp and surrounded by netting, in order to avoid association with the local boys, who are alleged to harbour diseases. For breaking the rule of not associating with the local boys, Kostya (Vitya Kosykh) is expelled from the camp, but in fact remains on the grounds, with the other kids conspiring to keep his presence a secret.

Of course, kids in the west are now subject to far greater rules and strictures 'for their own safety' than was ever the case in the old USSR; making this satire as fresh and relevant as ever. A masterpiece of Soviet cinema. Very highly recommended.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 9 / 10
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Dva Lidi v Zoo (1989)

A fine comedy concerning the mischievous antics of identical twins. The cast are superb, the boys are completely natural actors, and the whole movie - and the boys - are an utter delight. Highly recommended.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 8 / 10
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The Escape Artist (1982)

Audiences were baffled by its choppy editing, but this is actually a stunning multi-layered poetic masterpiece, ultimately about the burning love of a boy for his dead father. Griffin O'Neal was just 15 when he played Danny Masters in this movie (though the film wasn't released for another couple of years), in a performance which John Holmstrom ("The Moving Picture Boy", p. 351) called "one of the screen's greatest boy performances". Watch out for former boy star Jackie Coogan as the owner of the Magic Shop, as well as performances from former 'Dead End Kids' Huntz Hall and Gabriel Dell. Unmissable!

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 10 / 10
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Eu Me Lembro (2005)

An extraordinary multi-award-winning masterpiece about the childhood, youth and young manhood of young Guiga growing up in Salvador in Brazil. Delivered with a kind of total candour and lucidity, to create a vivid portrait of the protagonist and his world, as he grows into an adult strongly influenced by the countercultural currents of the 1970s. One of the finest ever films in the coming-of-age genre. [Content Advisory: The movie includes the most extraordinarily frank (prepubescent) masturbation scene I have ever seen in film. This could certainly pose a problem for those who believe the modern mythology that children are all asexual beings.]

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 10 / 10
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A Feast at Midnight (1994)

A rather slight affair, a little overlong, with rather thin characters and a stereotyped view of boarding school society. The sort of film one watches once and then will never bother viewing again. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. It has some good moments of wry humour, and Freddie Findlay is a superb actor.

My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 5 / 10
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Free Willy (1993)

A totally formulaic string of the most hackneyed clichés in boy-movies, as Jason James Richter struggles to save an animatronic whale from evil people who are trying to kill him for the insurance money. Not even Richter can prevent this movie becoming a bucket of steaming tripe. Entertaining only in that it is sometimes unintentionally risible (as in the film's climax). Maybe I'm just an old cynic...

My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 4 / 10
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The Good Son (1993)

I'm surprised by some of the negative reviews here of this film. Here is a movie which features an unlikely combination of two of the biggest boy actors of the 90s: Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. And guess what? Seeing these two interacting on screen is every bit as riveting as you would expect. I think Culkin has really found his forté here as well, playing an 'evil' character. A definite must-see.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 8 / 10
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Gummi-Tarzan (1981)

With its right-on message that every child can excel at something, it is not surprising that this movie won a Unicef Award; though in truth the characters in this movie are rather too simplistic and stereotyped to be credible. What is fascinating about this film now is what it reveals about the cultural chasm separating 1981 from the present day. When Ivan's parents discover that their son's closest friend is a middle-aged man who operates cranes, and that he regularly visits this man out of school hours, they are merely bemused and a little surprised, but not hostile or suspicious, still less hysterical, as they would be now. The film thus stands as a sad testament to a more civilised and less febrile era. Alex Svanbjerg gives a highly creditable performance as Ivan.

My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 6 / 10
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Invaders from Mars (1953)

A haunting, atmospheric movie, as though one is stuck in a nightmare from which one is unable to wake up. And yet at the same time this is fused with a slightly camp quality. The result is an absolutely unique film, whose mood would be impossible to replicate in any other era. Essential viewing.

Must Watch My Movie Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed StarRed Star 9 / 10
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