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If you can't say something nice...
Slarek | 25 October 2012

You may well have noticed that the majority of our reviews are on the positive side. There are a number of reasons for this. The site's two oldest serving writers have both done enough film work to know how much effort and time it takes to make even a mediocre feature, while it takes only a a few minutes for a reviewer to make a name for themselves by tossing off a few cleverly worded disparaging remarks.

A bigger issue is the one of personal taste. If a chair is comfortable, doesn't look too peculiar and is built to last then we can all agree it's a bloody good chair, but there is no criteria for factually classifying a film as good or bad. Fellow reviewer Timothy E. RAW admired David Fincher's The Social Network but was a lot less enamoured with the same director's Zodiac. I, on the other hand, found The Social Network rather tiresome and regard Zodiac as one of the finest American films in recent years. Which one of us is right? Well, both of us, actually. What works for one will often not for another, and frankly there are enough films out there for that not to worry me in the slightest.

But here's my quandary. Given the length of our reviews and the time it thus takes to write one, do I really want to spend days writing about why I didn't like a film you may well have been eagerly anticipating the Blu-ray release of? Frankly, given the number of review discs I have vying for my attention at any one time, I'd rather put my effort into highlighting a film I enjoyed on at least some level in the hope that others will seek it out too. This is why I set the site up in the first place, as a conduit for shared enthusiasm for lesser seen works, rather than a platform to moan about the ones I personally dislike.

It's for this reason that I only tend to ask distributors and PR companies for review discs of films that I either already like or suspect I will at least find interesting. But a fair number of the discs we receive arrive unsolicited, sent to us in the hope that we will cover these titles. If I had more writers, then we would review every one of them, but with the other site contributors either incapacitated, wrapped up in their day jobs, or otherwise occupied with their post-London Film Festival pieces, I'm currently the only one attacking this small mountain of discs. This has meant missing a number of reviews that we would normally have never let pass, including Masters of Cinema titles like Ro.Go.Pa.G. and Pasolini's Oedipus Rex.

But even when things are a little slow on the review disc front, there are titles that I end up choosing not to review, precisely for the reasons detailed above. If I'm going to devote so much of my free time to covering a new release, do I really want to spend it watching and talking about a film I hated? After all, opinions on any movie are easy to find (expect a rather scathing blog entry from Gort very soon on this very subject). This has caused a couple of diplomatic problems in the past. I remember a couple of years ago posting a news story about the upcoming release of a low budget horror film, and the director himself wrote to thank me for doing so and looked forward to our eventual review of the film. It never appeared, for the simple reason that when I saw it I could hardly think of a good word to say about it, and the prospect of having to re-watch it with notebook in hand and then spend a couple of evenings complaining about it proved too grim a prospect, particularly when the alternative was to bring an equally unknown but – in my humble view – far superior genre film to the attention of potential readers.

If I were reviewing films for a living then I would willingly take the rough with the smooth, but when it's something I have to squeeze into my leisure time, I tend to get a little fussy. And I'm not the only one. Regularly I send out a list of currently held review discs to the other writers on the site and usually get little or no response. If we were all being paid to do this I'd get to play boss man and assign the discs to whoever would be best suited to cover them and they'd be obliged to deliver. But since these good people are all also working voluntarily, they tend to only select films that they know and like or have a specific interest in, which leaves a large number of discs without a reviewer assigned to them and destined for the "maybe watch later" cabinet.

So what was it exactly that prompted this admission? Well, about three weeks ago a package landed on my doormat containing two Blu-ray review discs from Arrow Video. We like Arrow a lot, particularly for their lovingly packaged restorations of horror favourites from the 70s and 80s. And had they sent us one of those or their recent Blu-ray release of Nordic Noir series The Bridge I'd have leapt on the review with some enthusiasm. What what arrived instead was the unholy double of Who Dares Wins and The Wild Geese.

Now it's quite possible that you'll enjoy these two examples of 80s British action cinema, but personally I detested both films with a passion. And I'm not alone here. When I told fellow reviewer Camus that I had them in my possession his reaction mirrored mine, describing them simply as "dreadful movies, just dreadful." And while damning reviews are sometimes fun to read, sitting through both films again and spending a few evenings explaining just why I so dislike them, as well as having to cover a substantial number of extra features (Who Dares Wins even includes a second feature film starring Lewis bloody Collins, who's earlier misadventures you can read about in Camus' and my shared review of series 4 of The Professionals, a rare instance of us putting the boot in to a series we hated) – was just too much to bear, particularly when I also had Kotoko, The Devil Rides Out, Park Row, The Uninvited and Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen waiting in the wings. But for those of you who are fans of this pair of shouty, thick-ear, reactionary 80s actioners, I will confirm that the Blu-ray transfers on both are fine and the extra features should prove substantial enough to keep you happy. Now let's never speak of them again.