Ronald Harwood

Ronald Harwood

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Quartet Review


Very Good

For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors who are working from an intelligent script. So even if it's essentially a rather flimsy little drama that never really stretches the talented cast, there's plenty to like along the way. And Hoffman makes sure that we enjoy ourselves, inserting some sparky humour and a bit of romantic comedy to keep us smiling.

It takes place in a stately home for retired British musicians, which is planning its annual fundraising gala. Then iconic soprano Joan (Smith) arrives, and the gala's diva-like director (Gambon) decides to reunite the quartet known for a famed performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. The other three have long been residents: womanising Wilf (Connolly) and ditzy Cissy (Collins) are up for it, but Reggie (Courtenay) has never recovered after his marriage to Jean failed decades ago. Of course, everyone connives to get Jean and Reggie to talk to each other, but getting Jean to come out of retirement to sing again is an even more daunting task.

Aside from the central theme of second chances, there isn't much to this film beyond watching a group of superb veteran actors have a lot of fun on screen together. As the swishy ringleader, Gambon camps it up hilariously, even as everyone else ignores him. Connolly gleefully chomps on Wilf's innuendo-filled dialogue, and Collins radiates warmth. While Sheridan Smith surprises with a strong turn as the doctor in residence. This leaves Smith and Courtenay with the script's only meaty scenes, and they make finding the raw honesty in these wounded people look easy.

Continue reading: Quartet Review

Australia Review


OK
It takes a half hour before you're able to put a finger on the tone and tactic of Baz Luhrmann's Australia. First steps are taken on shaky legs until the sweeping picture hits its stride. After that, you're given an additional two-and-a-half-hours to determine whether or not you like what's attempted.

At 165 minutes, Australia is ambitious to a point -- and then, to a fault. You can actually point to two movies jockeying for position on screen (well, one full story and the seeds of another). And while I quite liked the primary story, the third-act coda struck me as fodder for a potential sequel I wasn't prepared to sit through at the time.

Continue reading: Australia Review

The Statement Review


Bad
No matter how much leeway you want to give certain films - whether they star an actress you like or are about a worthy subject - it just isn't enough, and you will end up disliking them no matter how much you don't want to. With some of these films, like The Statement, you end up coming close to actually hating the thing and hoping bad things happen to it.

An ostensible Nazi-hunting thriller that's far too impressed with its supposed moral ambiguity, The Statement is about former Vichy militia Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine) who, back in 1944, helped the Nazis round up and execute seven Jews in a small French town. It's based on the true story of Paul Touvier, who ordered such an execution on June 29, 1944 in southwestern France, and was sentenced to life in prison in 1995.

Continue reading: The Statement Review

Oliver Twist Review


Weak
At the end of a good year, I will have read three books. This has nothing to do with any sort of laziness or lack of literary enjoyment; this is simply my quota. When I do read, however, I tend to try to read what one would consider modern classics. On this reasoning, I've read a scant number of what most people consider "classic" novels. However, of the few I have read, one of them happens to be Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. So, I am coming into Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist locked and loaded with the book and David Lean's wonderful 1948 version on my mind.

Let's get the story out of the way for those few who haven't heard it. Sweet, young Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) is cast out of his orphanage when he is picked to ask the cook for more porridge and is sent to work for a kind casket maker who is controlled by his wife. He escapes to London where he makes friends with a charming thief nicknamed The Artful Dodger (Harry Eden). As it happens, Dodger is part of a gang of thieving youths who work for the persuasive Fagin (Sir Ben Kingsley), a decrepit old man with too much hair and too few teeth. The storm really swells when Twist tries to go straight with a rich book collector named Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke) and gets on the bad side of a few of Fagin's friends and partners. The most nefarious of the partners is Billy Sykes (Jamie Foreman), a terribly mean thief who is followed around by an ugly dog named Bullseye. This all leads to a plot between Sykes and Fagin to kill poor little Oliver, but that proves to be pretty difficult.

Continue reading: Oliver Twist Review

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Ronald Harwood Movies

Quartet Movie Review

Quartet Movie Review

For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors...

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The Statement Movie Review

The Statement Movie Review

No matter how much leeway you want to give certain films - whether they star...

Oliver Twist Movie Review

Oliver Twist Movie Review

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